Panel Three Recordings 

Legislative Protections for Nigerian Journalists: Assessing the current status and Suggesting the way forward

Gever Verlumun Celestine

University of Nigeria

Journalists require legislative protection because of the risks associated with the type of job that they do. In the process of carrying out their assignments, journalists face varying degrees of attack, especially from those who are not comfortable with their activities becoming public knowledge. Therefore, legislative protection will reduce the likelihood of attacks and outline stiff punishment for those who perpetrate attacks against journalists. The situation in developing countries like Nigeria is deserving of attention because the country is among those with high instances of impunity for attacks against journalists. In this study, the researcher examined the current status of legislative protections for Nigerian journalists. The researchers used a survey research design and sampled 204 Nigerian journalists. Data were collected using a structured questionnaire and results were presented in tables and charts. The researcher found that there is currently an absence of legislative protection for Nigerian journalists and journalists feel that this is encouraging impunity for attacks against them. The result also showed that journalists feel that there is a need to enact legislative protection for Nigerian journalists to discourage attacks against journalists and to end the era of impunity for attacks. The researchers highlighted the theoretical and practical implications of these results.

A Survey of Journalism Students’ Knowledge and Awareness of Personal Risks and Safety Measures for News Coverage

Solace Yawa Asafo

University of Media, Arts and Communication (UNiMAC)

This study investigates the role of media training schools in promoting journalists’ personal safety. It argues that while governments, media institutions, and civil society organisations must promote the safety and security of journalists, media training institutions have a primary duty to teach and equip journalism students with the knowledge and technical skills on safety, security and protection. Journalism safety is defined as the extent to which journalists can work without facing physical, psychological, digital, health and financial threats. This paper sought to answer the following questions: what do students know about risks, threats and safety protocols associated with journalism practice; which courses taught students about risks and safety issues; and do students have the skills to respond to threats and risks? Using the UN Framework on Journalist Safety (2017), data was collected from 120 final-year journalism students of the Ghana Institute of Journalism. Analysis of the data revealed that there is no course on Safety of Journalists at GIJ as required by UNESCO, even though there is a course addressing legal/ethical threats and three others dealing with topics on physical threats. Consequently, while students’ awareness of physical and legal/ethical threats against journalists was high, most lacked awareness of digital, emotional/psychological, health, and financial risks and their associated safety measures. Additionally, students lacked the practical knowledge of the safety measures that should be adopted in risky situations. The implications are that final-year journalism students lack the competencies and skills to deal with digital, emotional/psychological, financial and health threats they may encounter in their work, thus endangering their personal safety. Journalism schools, therefore, need to develop personal safety courses that deal with all types of risks and personal safety measures with a greater focus on the emotional and health hazards and safety measures, especially in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The sound of silence: Norwegian media´s inability to deal with impunity regarding US war crimes

Rune Ottosen 

Oslo Metropolitan University

Norwegian media were rightfully upset when Wall Street journalist Evan Gershkovich recently was arrested in Moscow and charged under the Russian Espionage Act. The same media with a few exceptions remain silent when Julian Assange has been charged under the US Espionage Act. He faces possible 175 years in prison for revealing war crimes through WikiLeaks in 2010. Assange has now spent four years in Belmarsh high security prison waiting for a decision in British court if he can be extradited to USA. This paper discusses if this is part of a bigger pattern in what Berit von der Lippe calls the rhetoric of silence in dealing with US war crimes. Norway is ranked as number one Reporters without border´s press freedom index. The Norwegian ministry of foreign affairs has since 2021 implemented a “Strategy for freedom of expression in the foreign- and development policy”. Included her is a policy to “support international efforts to protect journalists and fight impunity in abuse of safety”. Norway has condemned arrests of journalists in countries like Russia, China, and Turkey. When confronted with the situation of Julian Assange by a member of the Norwegian parliament, foreign minister Anniken Huitfeldt, refused to take a clear position. In general terms she said she has confidence in the legal system in US and Great Britain. In this paper I discuss the principal and legal issues with a possible double standard approach to legal issues dealing with protecting journalists at risk. Thorbjørn Jagland, former secretary general of European Council and former prime minister and foreign minister of Norway has stated that Norway according to the European Convention of Human Rights is obliged to interfere in the case of Assange. In his mind UK has violated article 3 in the convention which forbids any form of torture and inhuman treatment of prisoners. The research question explored is if problems with impunity should be addressed even when Norway´s closest allies are involved.

Journalist Safety vs Fight Against Impunity: The Nigerian Experience

Ngozi Comfort Omojunikanbi

University of Port Harcourt 

This article presents an analysis of the current situation of journalist safety in Nigeria and the challenges that journalists face in their fight against impunity. It begins by discussing the current state of press freedom in Nigeria and how the government and media can interact to improve the safety of journalists. In a recent report, the Media Rights Agenda (MRA) said impunities like harassments, physical assault, brutalisation, armed robbery, threat to life, unlawful arrest and detention, bruises, fracture and public humiliation are on the increase. Journalist safety is paramount in Nigeria, and although there are challenges associated with press freedom in Nigeria, there are still policy strategies that can be implemented to further ensure the safety of journalists. Section 22 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states that the press, radio, television and other agencies of mass media, shall, at all times, be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of those in government. This paper thus, emphasizes the need for both the Nigerian government and media to work together in creating an environment that is conducive for journalists to perform their duties without fear of reprisal or intimidation. This study adopts qualitative research method, (21 in-depth interviews with practicing journalists and law makers in Nigeria). This article asserts that with increased commitment from lawmakers, the media, and civil society, Nigeria can create a better environment for journalists, and further fight against impunity.

Online Abuse of Journalists as a Media Freedom Interest in the Online Safety Bill

Ricki-Lee Gerbrandt

University of Cambridge

My working Paper investigates the rich contemporary legislative history of journalism and Press-related issues in the UK Online Safety Bill. Through examining the early government reports leading up to the Online Safety Bill, this Paper finds that the Government’s policy intentions were to tackle online harms against public figures, including journalists and politicians. There were no early concerns about carving out exemptions from the Bill’s requirements for the Press or granting the Press’s content special benefits. But those policy goals shifted after intervention from the Press lobby and other freedom of the press concerns were raised. While journalists and certain journalists and civic organisations continued to advocate for legislative protections for journalists from online abuse (including abuse appearing in below-the-line newspaper comments), those concerns fell off the legislative radar. Government instead focused on carving out benefits for “recognised news publishers” and undefined “journalistic content” to disincentivize platforms from censoring such content and to exempt the Press from the requirements of the Online Safety Bill. This Paper argues that online journalism safety is a serious press freedom issue that was not satisfactorily addressed in the legislative process—by either Government or Press businesses. While the Press may have legitimate concerns about platform and government censorship, the online safety of journalists is also a legitimate press freedom issue that must be forcefully protected. Ignoring and minimising the pervasive issue of online abuse of journalists in online safety legislation is a significant missed opportunity that should be remedied. This Paper offers several options for how that can be accomplished.

How are courts responding to SLAPPs in jurisdictions without special anti-SLAPP measures? 

Paulina Gutiérrez 

ARTICLE 19, Law and Policy Programme

Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) is a global phenomenon that seriously threatens the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. Journalists, media outlets and critical voices are subject to long, highly technical, and costly legal proceedings initiated by powerful plaintiffs that, rather than seeking legitimate redress, aim to stifle public debate on matters of public interest. The work and sustainability of journalists and many media outlets are in danger as a result of the legal, economic and psychological resources they require to confront SLAPP suits. Those affected are mostly covering matters concerning corruption, human rights abuses, environmental crises, corporate abuses, sexual violence, collusion of authorities with organised crime, among many others. The responses to this form of abusive litigation often centre on “anti-slapp” procedural measures whereby the courts have the power to dismiss abusive or meritless claims at early stages of the proceeding. However, only three countries have enacted anti-slapp laws, namely Canada, the US and Australia. In the meantime, the chilling effect of SLAPPs is expanding in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe. While procedural measures have proven to deter to some extent the progression of SLAPPs in jurisdictions with anti-SLAPP legislation – and therefore have become a key advocacy call and solution in other countries-, little attention has been put on how are Courts responding to abusive litigation in jurisdictions that lack anti-SLAPP legislation. This paper aims to examine the role of Courts in addressing this underexplored legal phenomenon in their jurisdictions and demonstrate that in the absence of special legislative measures, they still play a key role in protecting the journalistic exercise of freedom of expression from SLAPPs by making use of existing legal tools and approaches. It analyses selected court decisions from across the globe to showcase that Courts are shaping anti-SLAPP case law that can inform the urgent and existing strategies at international, regional and national level.