CPJ calls on Nigerian president to improve press freedom

Nigeria President Bola-Tinubu

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu Photo credit: Punch Newspaper

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), calls upon Nigeria president Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration to take immediate and deliberate measures to enhance the conditions for journalists in Nigeria as he marks three months in office. We believe there is no more opportune moment to rejuvenate press freedom across the nation.

Our earnest request is that you ensure justice is served in cases of attacks against journalists, while simultaneously initiating reforms in legislation and regulations to prevent the unwarranted incarceration and surveillance of media professionals. Additionally, we implore you to guarantee uninterrupted access to the internet, online platforms, and news websites.

CPJ has meticulously documented a disturbing pattern of threats, harassment, and physical assaults by security personnel, politicians, and their supporters against journalists in the line of duty. These incidents have occurred during the coverage of various events, including protests and elections. In the recent presidential and state election period alone, CPJ recorded over 40 instances of intimidation attempts, physical assaults, or journalist detentions.

Since 1992, CPJ has mournfully documented the killing of at least 22 journalists in Nigeria, with two others missing and presumed deceased. Shockingly, 12 of these journalists were indisputably murdered because of their journalistic work. For instance, on June 21, a local court ordered the Nigerian police to compensate the family of Alex Ogbu, an editor with Regent Africa Times, who was fatally shot while covering protests in Abuja in January 2020. The sum of 50 million naira (US$65,353) was mandated as compensation.

Similarly, in July 2021, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court ruled that the Nigerian government should pay journalist Agba Jalingo 30 million naira (US$39,211) for his prolonged detention and mistreatment in custody. Regrettably, neither of these payments has been fulfilled by the authorities.

CPJ has, for several years, documented recurrent cases of authorities prosecuting journalists under laws that criminalize journalism. These problematic laws include:

  1. Section 24 of Nigeria’s cybercrime act, which penalizes communications deemed false, offensive, or intimidating with imprisonment for up to three years and a fine of 7 million naira (US$9,000). Journalists like Agba Jalingo and Luka Binniyat are emblematic of those currently facing prosecution under this law.
  2. Nigeria’s penal code, applicable in northern Nigeria, and the criminal code, applicable in southern Nigeria, both contain provisions criminalizing defamation and other offenses used to detain journalists. Sections 97, 114, and 392 of the penal code, which pertain to criminal conspiracy, defamation, and “breach of public peace,” have all been employed in recent years against journalists. Sections 375 and 517 of the criminal code, which similarly address defamation and offences against the state, also carry prison sentences and have been used for prosecuting the press.

Moreover, Nigeria’s communications regulations authorize law enforcement and various other authorities to access telecom subscribers’ call data, including call times, locations, and numbers used, without requiring a judicial warrant. Between 2017 and 2020, CPJ recorded at least three instances of Nigerian police utilizing telecom surveillance to locate and apprehend journalists for their work. Military investigators have also utilized digital forensics technology to uncover journalists’ sources.

Nigerian journalists and civil society have steadfastly opposed social media regulation and online censorship, including the ban on Twitter, now referred to as “X,” which ECOWAS has declared illegal. Additionally, authorities have instructed telecom providers to block access to the Peoples Gazette in Nigeria.

We earnestly hope that your administration will take swift and decisive actions to ameliorate the press freedom landscape in Nigeria. CPJ is ready and willing to offer support and provide further information that can contribute to the promotion of journalists’ rights to work freely and safely.


Jodie Ginsberg
Committee to Protect Journalists

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