SERAP writes Trump, seeks travel ban for governors jailing journalists, others

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to the US President Donald Trump asking him to exercise his constitutional powers to instruct the US Secretary of State and US Ambassador in Nigeria to temporarily ban 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.”

SERAP also urged Mr 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.”

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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 the letter dated 30 October 2019 and signed by deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation 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’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.”

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“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.”

“Proactive initiatives to protect media freedom and human rights that would invariably contribute to transparency and accountability globally have always been in the best long-term interests of the US. Your application of targeted sanctions would reaffirm US commitments to human rights, and media freedom and help to supplement the criminal justice in Nigeria and be entirely consistent with the US international obligations.”

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“SERAP believes that your government’s imposition of targeted sanctions against those accused of misusing the criminal justice system to attack, intimidate, harass and jail journalists, bloggers and activists in Nigeria would help to deter other state governments, governors and other senior public officials from limiting the enjoyment of Nigerians’ right to information about what their government is doing in their names.”

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