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Nigeria’s cybercrime law used to silence critical reporting

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has slammed the Nigerian government for using a recently enacted Cybercrime law to muzzle the press and brush away criticism.

Since the law was passed in May 2015, it has already been used to press charges against at least five bloggers who criticised politicians and businessmen online and through social media, the CPJ found out.

Last month, the law was cited in the August 20 arrest of Musa Babale Azare who was detained in the capital Abuja by police from Bauchi state. He was accused of allegedly criticising the state governor Muhammad Abdullah Abubakar on social media.

Azare uses Facebook and Twitter as platforms to criticise the actions and policies of the governor and his administration.

The New York-based media watchdog has cited numerous examples of online users that continue to be charged under Cyber Stalking, a Section 24 of the cybercrime act.

Anyone found guilty in terms of Section 24 can be sentenced for up to three years in jail and a pay a fine of US$22 000.

CPJ also said it found that at least three other bloggers were prosecuted under the cybercrime act in the space of four months last year after they reported or commented on critical reports.

“Freedom of expression and the press is guaranteed under Section 39 of Nigeria’s constitution. But that restrictive laws which allow for journalists and bloggers to be arrested for reporting critically on politicians and others, violates that right,” Peter Nkanga, CPJ West African representative wrote on his blog.

“The Cybercrime Act has to be repealed because it is evil, dictatorial and completely violates everything that is free speech,” blogger Azare was quoted by the CPJ as saying.

(Source: CPJ, final editing by Issa Sikiti)

Photo: Nigeian newspapers. credit: Premiumtimesng.com

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