The ECOWAS Court of Justice has ordered the government of Nigeria to amend some Sections of the Nigerian Press Council Act of 1992 to align with international practices that promote free, pluralistic, and professional journalism.
Two Nigerian journalists had sued the government for violating their right to freedom of expression by imposing restrictive criteria for practicing journalism.
They claimed that the Nigerian Press Council Act of 1992 discriminated against online and citizen journalists and failed to recognize public interest media.
The ECOWAS Court of Justice ruled in their favor and ordered the government to amend the contested sections of the Act.
In its judgment delivered by Hon Justice Dupe Atoki, Judge Rapporteur, the Court declared that Sections 19 (1)(a), 27 and 37 of the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) Act failed to recognize public interest media including rights of online and citizen journalists thereby violating Article 9 (1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), and Article 8 (1) and 10 (2) of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa.
The Court also dismissed some of the journalists’ claims that were not substantiated, such as unlawful arrest and detention.
The journalists asked for one million USD as damages, but the Court did not grant this request.
The case with suit number ECW/CCJ/APP/31/21 was filed on 14 June 2021 by lawyers representing the Applicants – Mr Isaac Olamikan and Mrs Edoghogho Ugberease – online and citizen journalists who practise journalism for the promotion of freedom of expression, opinion, and access to information.
In the application, they claimed that Sections 19(1)a, 27 and 37 of the Nigeria Press Council Act of 1992 requiring journalists to be at least 18 years and accredited by the NPC, 25 years to be an editor with working experience in reputable media organization or news agency and registered with the Nigeria Union of Journalists, discriminated against them.