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Nigerian cyber crime law is targeted at journalists–Lawyer

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Babalola Olumide, a Lagos based lawyer says the Nigerian cybercrime law was designed to cripple freedom of expression and hinder journalists from performing their duties.

“Whoever sponsored the law has so many things in mind at the point of conception. But definitely, it is targeted at Nigerian journalists and infringes on Section 39 of the Constitution,”Babalola said at a panel discussion on the second day of the Internet Freedom Forum 2018 holding in Abuja.

The session was on ‘Cybercrime Laws and Freedom of Expression: Protecting the Rights of Journalists and Activists.’

The Nigerian Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, ETC) Act was enacted in 2011 to fight cybercrimes in the country.

But Olumide explained that Sections 24 and 25 of the Act were specifically targeted at journalists, noting that the government, politicians and other influential members of the society have used these sections to harass and arrest journalists through the police.

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Part of Sections 24 of the Act says, “A person who knowingly or intentionally sends a message or other matter by means of computer or network that – is grossly offensive, pornographic, or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character or causes any such damage or matter to be so sent etc.”

“These are the most potent aspects of the law that the government and politicians use against journalists and bloggers. These sections say anyone who writes anything considered offensive or abusive by anyone.

“It is just targeted at the journalists; we have cases where those sections have been used to arrest many journalists by the police.

“It is not only for politicians but anyone that has the strength and the means to use the section against journalists.” He said

He said almost all the journalists that have been arrested and detained between when the Act was enacted and now were treated with those sections of the Act, lamenting that the Nigerian judiciary has not tested the constitutionality of the Act.

“This law has no definition, it is nebulous, barbaric and should not operate in the 21st century. That is our submission at the court of law,

“Why our cybercrime law is still the way it is because it has not been tested in the court,”Olumide said

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He called for intense campaign against it by the media, the civil society organisations and all other stakeholders.

“This issue is something we should read in the paper, internet, it should be the focal point of discuss, this conversation should be a continual one. It is not for only journalists but everyone and all stakeholders.

“It is easier to fight a law when it is still in the making than waiting until it is already passed. The cybercrime Act was enacted in 2011 but when it was being read and enacted on the floor of the National Assembly, we did not pay attention to it.

“Now, there is nothing any journalist can do to protect himself except he will stop writing. There is not much that a journalist can do.”

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