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ECOWAS Court Denies Two Nigerian Journalists $1 Million Compensation for Unlawful Arrest, Orders Federal Government to Revise Press Law

The ECOWAS Court of Justice has directed the Nigerian federal government to revise certain provisions within the Nigerian Press Council Act of 1992, responding to a lawsuit brought forward by two Nigerian journalists, Isaac Olamikan and Edoghogho Ugberease.

The journalists filed the suit in 2021, alleging that the Act imposed restrictive conditions on journalism, particularly discriminating against online and citizen journalists while failing to acknowledge public interest media. They claimed that security operatives arrested them unlawfully while they were conducting journalistic investigations.

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The court, presided over by Judge Rapporteur Dupe Atoki, determined that sections 19 (1)(a), 27, and 37 of the Act breached the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), along with the declaration of principles on freedom of expression in Africa. These sections failed to recognize the rights of online and citizen journalists and placed strict educational and age-related requirements for practicing journalism.

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The judgment highlighted specific provisions, such as setting the minimum age for journalism practice at 18 and requiring a minimum age of 25 to qualify as an editor, which the court found problematic. Sections 19(a) and 27 also imposed educational qualifications and mandatory training for individuals seeking recognition as journalists.

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In defense, Maimuna Shiru, representing the Federal Ministry of Justice, contended that rights to information and freedom of expression were not absolute and that the arrests were justified due to national security concerns.

While the court declined the journalists’ plea for $1 million in compensation, it acknowledged the evolving media landscape, emphasizing the impact of technological advancements and the emergence of online journalism

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