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Release detained journalist, amend cyber-crime law, CPJ tells Nigerian government

A CIVIL Society Organisation, Community to Protest Journalists (CPJ), advocating for global press freedom has called for the release of Nigerian Journalist, Ime Sunday Silas, and amendment of the Nigeria Cyber Crime Act.

CPJ made this call in a statement posted on its official website on Wednesday noting that the journalist has been held in detention for over one month despite a court order granting his release on bail.

“Nigerian authorities should immediately release journalist Ime Sunday Silas, drop the charges against him, and reform the country’s cybercrime act to ensure it is not used against the press,” CPJ said.

Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in New York said Silas’ illegal detention serves as one of the extents at which the Nigerian government is ready to go to suppress the press in the county.

“The prolonged detention of journalist Ime Sunday Silas is yet another grave reminder of the lengths to which Nigerian authorities are willing to go to silence journalism they find undesirable,” Quintal said.

According to CPJ, Silas was arrested and transferred to the State Police Headquarters on August 17 by officers of the Nigerian Police in Uyo city, the capital of Akwa-Ibom state.

CPJ stated that Silas was arraigned before a local magistrate court on August 18 under Section 24 of Nigeria’s 2015 cybercrime act, according to a copy of the charge sheet it reviewed.

“The court denied Silas bail on August 18, but his lawyers filed a new bail application on August 24, which was granted on September 10, Emmanuel Isangidoho, one of Silas’ lawyers, told CPJ via phone and messaging app.

“Despite being granted bail, Silas remains in the police headquarters as of today, according to Solomon Johnny, Global Concord’s editor-in-chief,” the statement read.

The advocacy group further stated that Silas’ charge sheet alleges that he violated Section 24 of the act related to “cyberstalking” by sending a message that included the title of an August 9 report published by The Profile about Martha Udom Emmanuel, the wife of Akwa-Ibom Governor Udom Emmanuel in a report, titled “Exposed: Okobo PDP Chapter Chair links Gov Udom’s Wife with a plot to blackmail Deputy Speaker,” alleged a blackmail scheme related to upcoming local council elections.

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CPJ noted that the Nigerian government as part of the means to suppress the press has continued to use section 24 of the cyber-crimes law to prosecute journalists in the country.

Emmanuel Isangidoho, one of Silas’ lawyer told CPJ that it was illegal for any magistrate court to charge Silas with a federal crime, like cybercrime, and that only a higher court had the authority to hear such cases.

A check by The ICIR on the Cyber-Crime Act of 2015, Section 30 read that ‘The Attorney-General of the Federation shall prosecute offences under this Act (Cyber Crime Act) subject to the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999’.

In a court ruling attached with the statement, CPJ said the Economic of West African States (ECOWAS) in a suit involving the Incorporated Trustees of Laws and Rights Awareness Initiatives and The Federal Republic of Nigeria ruled that the Cyber Crime Act of 2015 Section 24 of the cybercrime act violated the right of freedom of expression and ordered the government to “repeal or amend” the law.

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