FG Mulls over Specialised Team to Prosecute Perpetrators of Crimes against Journalists

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Wale Igbintade

The federal government has revealed that it is processing a request by Media Rights Agenda (MRA) for the establishment of a specialised team of prosecutors to facilitate effective investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against journalists and other media workers.

This was revealed in a letter written by the Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Public Relations, Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu’, addressed to MRA’s Executive Director, Mr. Edetaen Ojo,

A statement issued by MRA Communications Officer, Idowu Adewale stated that Gwandu, wrote the letter on behalf of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami.

MRA had written to the federal government on October 26, 2021, ahead of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (IDEI) on November 2, and had called on the government to establish a team of specialised prosecutors.

According to MRA, this would among other things, position Nigeria to, “fulfill its international treaty obligations under a number of regional and international instruments, most notably Principle 20 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, adopted in November 2019 by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights pursuant to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Nigeria is a State Party.”

Acknowledging that the government received MRA’s letter on the issue, “with great appreciation,” Gwandu said it was gratifying that, “professional bodies, pundits, youth and non-partisan organisations are objectively and dispassionately taking into account of the outstanding professional acumen and wealth of experience brought to bear in the transformation of the Federal Ministry of Justice by Mr. Malami.”

In its October 26, 2021 letter to the government, the MRA had expressed concern that, “despite the numerous cases of attacks against journalists in Nigeria in the last few decades, including many of them killed, no one has ever been charged with any crime for such attacks and nobody has ever been punished.”

The organisation said the situation was reflecting negatively on thegovernment and signals a wrong message to perpetrators that they can attack or even kill journalists and that there will be no adverse consequences for the perpetrators.

It noted that as a regional power and leader, it was critical for Nigeria to demonstrate moral leadership by living up to the commitments it had made, particularly in the African context, by respecting and abiding by such regional standards and instruments.

The MRA cited Principle 20 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, titled: “Safety of journalists and other media practitioners,” saying it imposes an obligation on State Parties to the African Charter, including Nigeria, to guarantee the safety of journalists and other media practitioners.

The declaration also provides, among other things, that, “states shall take measures to prevent attacks on journalists and other media practitioners, including murder, extra-judicial killing, torture and other forms of ill-treatment, arbitrary arrest, and detention, enforced disappearance, kidnapping, intimidation, threats and unlawful surveillance undertaken by State and non-state actors.”