The Federal Government has said that it is processing a request by Media Rights Agenda (MRA) for it to establish a specialized team of prosecutors to facilitate effective investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against journalists and other media workers.
This is in response to a letter written on behalf of MRA by its Executive Director, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, on October 26, 2021, ahead of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (IDEI) on November 2, to request that the Government establish the team of specialized prosecutors.
Mr Ojo had explained that such step 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.”
In respect to the letter, Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Public Relations, Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, said: “Your letter requesting the Federal Government of Nigeria to establish a specialized team of prosecutors to ensure effective investigation and prosecution of crimes against journalists and other media workers through the office of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has been received and is being processed.”
Also, Dr. Gwandu, who wrote on behalf of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), promised that “You will be communicated if there is any development thereof.”
Acknowledging that the Government received MRA’s letter on the issue “with great appreciation”, Dr. Gwandu said it was gratifying that “professional bodies, pundits, youth and non-partisan organizations 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, MRA expressed grave 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 organization said the situation was reflecting negatively on the Government 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.