The 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 “pursuant to the Presidential Proclamations 7750 and 8697 to instruct the United States Secretary of State and the United States Ambassador in Nigeria to temporarily ban Nigerian 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 United States.”
SERAP also urged Trump to “use Presidential Proclamation 8697 which allows the United States 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 in Lagos.
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In the letter, dated October 30, 2019, and signed by SERAP’s 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 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: 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 television stations and activists have been targeted since 2015. At least, 36 attacks on journalists were recorded between January and July 2019, while 30 of the attacks happen during the 2019 general election.
“The attacks and harassment include arbitrary arrests and detention, physical attacks and even deaths. In 2018, at least, 45 radio and television stations were sanctioned by the authorities on unfounded allegations of breaching some codes of conduct.”