Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has petitioned the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Advocate Pansy Tlakula over the increasing level of attacks against journalists and media houses in Nigeria.
The petition,dated April 16, 2013 andsigned by Mr. Adetokunbo Mumuni, SERAP Executive Director,asked Advocate Tlakula to “urgently intervene to stop the Nigerian government from further intimidation and harassment of journalists and media houses and to prevail on the government to respect internationally recognized right to freedom of expression and press freedom in the country.”
SERAP noted that “the attack against journalists and the media by the government is coming at a time the government’s effort to fight corruption is waning; and when the government continues to perform poorly in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index.”
It warned that government’s anti-corruption agenda cannot work effectively without the important contribution of the media. It added that without press freedom, it is much easier for the government to take away other human rights and to perpetrate official and large scale corruption.
The organization also expressed concern over the recent arrests of Leadership newspapers journalists, and the harassment of some radio stations for simply allowing and airing critical views against the government. SERAP said these actions illustrate the government’s increasing intolerance of critical views.
The group said: “SERAP is seriously concerned that the action by the Nigerian government contravenes the country’s international legal obligations, including under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party, and also directly violates Section 22 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended), which requires the Press to hold the government accountable to the people.”
SERAP said government’s action undermines and limits citizens’ right to freedom of opinion and expression; including the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
SERAP also contends that the guarantee of freedom of expression applies with particular force to the media adding that the right to freedom of expression and peoples’ right to seek and receive information cannot be meaningful unless the media plays its key role in a democratic society without political interference or influence.
SERAP requested Special Rapporteur, Advocate Tlakulato: publicly condemn and express concerns about the increasing level of attacks against journalists and media houses; urge the Nigerian government to end all intimidation and harassment of journalists and allow the media to function without any restrictions whatsoever; urge the Nigerian government to fully comply with its international legal obligations including under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights; and propose and facilitate the adoption of a resolution on the issue by the African Commission at its ongoing 53rd Ordinary Session in Banjul, The Gambia.