Trojan News :: Real Time News


ECOWAS Court Declares Sections Of Nigerian Press Law As Human Rights Violations

THE ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja has ruled that that some sections of the Nigerian Press Council Act constitute a violation of citizens’ rights, including their right to freedom of expression, and must be immediately amended to align them with international best practices.

Nigeria Press Council and ECOWAS Court of Justice

The court made the pronouncement in its judgement on a suit filed by two Nigerian journalists, Isaac Olamikan and Edoghogho Ugberease.


They had sued the Nigerian government, alleging that the Nigerian Press Council Act of 1992 was discriminatory and breached their right to freedom of expression.

The Nigerian Press Council established by the contested Act is a statutory organization vested with the responsibilities of ensuring “the highest ethical and professional standards in the media.”

It is empowered by the law to conduct enquiries into complaints about the print media outlets and the conduct of any person or organisation towards the press, amongst other functions.

Delivering the court’s judgement on the suit on Friday, 24 November, a judge on the court’s panel, Dupe Atoki, declared that sections 19 (1)(a), 27 and 37 of the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) Act failed to recognise public interest media including rights of online and citizen journalists.

Highlights of the decision are contained in a statement issued by the ECOWAS Court’s Communication Division on Sunday.

The statement said the three-member panel of the ECOWAS Court that decided the case comprised Ms Atoki, A Edward Amoako Asante (presiding) and Sengu M. Koroma (Member).

Specifically, Ms Atoki said the offending sections of the Nigerian law violate Article 9 (1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), and Article 8 (1) and 10 (2) of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa.

While on the alleged violation of Article 9 (freedom of expression), the Court noted that section 19(1) and Section 27 of the Press Act imposing minimum educational requirement, age limit and registration, were restrictive and interfered with the right to freedom of expression, and therefore violated Article 9 (2).

In reaching its decision, the court acknowledged the impact of technology in the evolving media space with the advent of citizen journalism, influencers and content creators who share news, commentary, and analyses on social issues.

Though not qualified in traditional sense, they contributed to shaping public opinion, the court held.

Referencing Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani education activist, and Greta Thunberg, Swedish environmental activist as good example of teenagers who deployed social media in their advocacy, attaining global recognition, the court said online media provides “unrestricted opportunity to gather information and express opinion.”

The regional court ordered the Nigerian government “to amend these contested sections to align with international practices that promote free, pluralistic and professional journalism.”

Earlier in the judgement, the court dismissed the Nigerian government’s preliminary objection, holding that it had jurisdiction to entertain and determine the case.

Ungranted prayers

However, the court rejected the journalist’s request for $1 million as compensation for their alleged illegal arrest and detention.

The court ordered both parties to bear their costs of litigation.

On the alleged violation of Article 2 of ACHPR, the court also noted that the journalists did not prove how they were treated differently in an identical or similar situation.

Consequently, the court held their rights to freedom from discrimination under Article 2 of ACHPR was not violated.


The applicants, Mr Olamikan and Ms Ugberease, who are online and citizen journalists, filed the case on 14 June 2021, through their lawyer, President Aigbokhan.

Mr Aigbokhan argued that the said portions of the press council law requiring journalists to be at least 18 years and accredited by the NPC in addition to being 25 years to be an editor with work experience in reputable media organisation or news agency and registered with the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), discriminated against his client.

The lawyer told the court that his clients practised journalism for the promotion of freedom of expression, opinion, and access to information.

Mr Aigbokhan contended that the sections of the law failed to recognise public interest media such as the rights of online and citizen journalists.

He added that the sections of the Nigerian law were discriminatory and violated their right to freedom of expression as guaranteed under Articles 2 and 9(1) of the ACHPR, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR), Articles 2, 10 and 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 8 (1) and 10 (2) of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa; and breached the State’s obligation under the ECOWAS Treaty among other cited texts.

“For example, Section 37 of the Press Council Act, puts the minimum age to practice journalism as 18 years of age, while to be qualified as an editor, requires a minimum of 25 years of age. Sections 19(a) and 27 of the Act imposes educational qualifications and compulsory courses of attendance and training before a person can be recognized and allowed to practice as a journalist,” the judgment stated.

The journalists had alleged that Nigerian security operatives arrested them separately at different locations while they were investigating and gathering information for their journalistic work.



The pair noted that their arrests and detention were unlawful and breached their rights.

They urged the court to order the government to amend the contested sections of the NPC Act to align with international practice and pay $1 million as damages.

Nigerian govt’s defence

In its defence, the Nigeria government told the court that “journalism is a sensitive profession requiring mastery as well as regulation to prevent negative effect.”

The Nigerian government’s lawyer, Maimuna Lami Shiru, the director of civil litigation at the Federal Ministry of Justice, Abuja, said rights to information and freedom of expression were not absolute.

Ms Ashiru countered the journalists’ allegations that they were unlawfully arrested and detained by government agents.

The defence lawyer informed the court that Mr Olamikan’s arrest had national security implications.

She said that Ms Ugberease “illegally operated” as a journalist.

About The Author