A digital rights expert, Tope Ogundipe has condemned the abuse of Nigeria’s Cybercrimes (Prevention etc) Act to harass journalists and other citizens. She was speaking at the Research Methods Workshop for Internet Policy and Advocacy in Kampala Uganda organized by the Internet Policy Observatory at the Annenberg School for Communications, University of Pennsylvania.
Ogundipe, who serves as Director of Programs at the pan-African social enterprise, Paradigm Initiative, led a session on “Cybercrime, Digital Rights and Law Enforcement in Nigeria”. She traced the origins of Nigeria’s Cybercrimes Act 2015 and its current use as the prime tool in the hands of the rich and powerful in Nigeria to facilitate the arrest and harassment of journalists, bloggers and ordinary citizens for comments made online.
She noted, “Since the passage of the Cybercrimes Act 2015, there has not been one incident where it has been used to prosecute a real cybercrime case. Instead, it has been used to arrest ordinary citizens for comments made online deemed offensive to the powerful in Nigeria
She also noted, “Journalists, in particular, have been at the receiving end of these arrests using the Cybercrime law because a large number of journalists have been arrested in Nigeria using sections 24 and 38 of the law”.
“Paradigm Initiative, in partnership with Media Rights Agenda and Enough is Enough Nigeria, in response to the use of the Cybercrime legislation in the arrests of citizens have challenged the constitutionality of sections 24 and 38 of the Cybercrimes law in court. The case has been in the courts since 2016. We lost at the court of the first instance and we are now at the Court of Appeal. Strategic litigation could be a long and drawn out process and as such patience and perseverance are required in this endeavour,” Ogundipe submitted.
During the workshop, which held between from February 26 – March 3, over 35 researchers and practitioners from across Africa were gathered at Kabira resort Kampala Uganda for an intense week of study on research methods that underpin Internet policy and advocacy on the continent. The workshop participants were drawn from 16 African countries while the faculty were drawn from within Africa, Europe and the United States.
The Workshop ended with participants asking questions from the session leader, particularly on how best to conduct strategic litigation within their countries.
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