By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has sent an open letter to the United States President, Donald Trump asking him to exercise his constitutional powers to temporarily ban Nigerian state governors and other senior public officials misusing the criminal justice system to jail journalists, bloggers and activists reporting on allegations of corruption from entering the US.
The group urged Trump to use constitutional powers, “pursuant to the Presidential Proclamations 7750 and 8697 to instruct the US Secretary of State and US Ambassador in Nigeria to issue travel ban on the governors, others.
SERAP also urged Trump to “use Presidential Proclamation 8697 (which allows the US Department of State to deny visas to foreign officials, their families and friends) who participate in serious human rights violations and other abuses such as misusing the criminal justice system to jail journalists, bloggers and activists to prevent them from reporting on allegations of corruption and other related cases.”
The letter followed SERAP’s report titled “A Downward Spiral: How Federal and State Authorities are Tightening the Screws on Media Freedom in Nigeria” and launched today in Lagos.
In a letter, yesterday, by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Democracy demands ‘maximum disclosure’ of all government-held information, and this won’t happen without respect for media freedom and the citizens’ rights to know. Undue restrictions on media freedom and the right to know would imply nothing short of abrogation of the ideals of democracy and good governance. Citizens’ right to know is vital for social welfare and other human rights.”
SERAP also said, “Media freedom and the right of citizens to know constitute a crucial bulwark of democracy. It is essential for the general progress of a democratic society if people are to effectively monitor their government’s affairs and democratically participate in the running of society, they must have access to government-held information, which the media should be allowed to freely report.”
SERAP’s letter, read in part: “Specifically, the report documents cases of attacks on journalists, bloggers and activists reporting on allegations of corruption and related matters in the following states of Nigeria: Cross River state; Abia state; Ebonyi state; Kano state; Jigawa state; Bauchi state; and Kaduna state.”
“Also, 109 journalists were attacked between 2010 and 2015, and several more journalists, bloggers, radio and TV stations and activists have been targeted since 2015. At least 36 attacks on journalists were recorded between January and July 2019 alone, 30 of the attacks happening during the 2019 general elections.”
“The attacks and harassment include arbitrary arrests and detention, physical attacks and even deaths. In 2018, at least 45 radio and TV stations were sanctioned by the authorities on unfounded allegations of breaching some codes of conduct.
“SERAP hopes that you will exercise your constitutional powers to promote human rights, media freedom, transparency and accountability in Nigeria.
“SERAP also notes that Presidential Proclamations 7750 and 8697 underscore the important role of the media in the establishment of legitimate and transparent public institutions to world stability, peace, and development.”
“The proclamations note the US ‘enduring commitment to respect for human rights and humanitarian law’, which requires that its Government be able to ensure that the US does not become a safe haven for suspected violators of human rights and other abuses. They also aim to help the US authorities to secure peace, promote the rule of law, combat crime and corruption, and strengthen democracies around the globe.”
“Significantly, the Presidential Proclamations underscore that it is in the interests of the United States to take action to restrict the international travel and to suspend the entry into the United States, as immigrants or non-immigrants, of certain persons who are suspected to be involved in serious violations of human rights, humanitarian law and other abuses.”