Centre for Democracy & Development (CDD) Condemns Rising Abuse of Press Freedom in West Africa




CDD avers that fundamental rights and rule of law must be duly upheld in democracies; that these latest attempts by governments and its security agencies to stifle freedom of expression and the press is against local and international instruments they are signatories to, equity and good conscience.

We affirm the provisions of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, which guarantees “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”,

Section 36 (1) of the 1999, Constitution of Nigeria as amended provides: “every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference”. As a way of strengthening the governance process by compelling accountable and responsive government, Section 22 of the constitution provides that: “the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this Chapter [2] and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people”.

In the same vein, Articles 26 of Togo Constitution provides: ‘freedom of the press is recognized and guaranteed by the State. Every person has the right to produce and disseminate information and opinions orally, in writing or through any other means, within such limits as are defined by law’. The press may not be subject to prior authorization, the suretyship, censorship or other barriers. Prohibition may be imposed only by a court decision.

The importance of the enforcement of these legislation cannot be over emphasized, not only because of international obligations but also the respect of these fundamental rights will enable states improve their human rights records, promote good governance and social justice through a regime where the media have the right to investigate, expose and criticize poor and corrupt leadership; in the pursuit of transparency and accountability and economic prosperity.

The resurgence of infringement on Press freedom and Expression in West Africa is frightening, and CDD fears that it would be a clog in the promotion of democratic governance. We call on all stakeholders to commence concerted efforts to avert a militarization of the democracy we all worked hard to attain.

CDD further makes the following demand;
• The Togo, Mali and Nigeria governments immediately halt all forms of harassment of journalists and suppression of Press freedom.

• The Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Writers Association and Maison de la Presse in the three countries and other sub-regional groups and organizations use their various platforms to mobilize for Press freedom through well-defined and constructive interventions.

• An investigation on the allegations of threat to life of Mr. Koffi Djidonou Frédéric Attipo by the Togolese government.

• The Malian government led by President Traore to drop the charges of “incitement to disobedience” and “publication of false information” against Boukary Daou in the spirit of reconciliation particularly as a country once revered as the bastion of freedom of expression and media in Africa.

• The Economic Community of West Africa ( ECOWAS) to immediately intervene in the dwindling state of Press Freedom.

• Enjoins more advocacy around the draft Supplementary Act on a Uniform Legal Framework on Freedom of Expression and the Right to Information in West Africa” of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Signed

Jibrin Ibrahim Director


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