Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today announced the launch of its project to combat impunity for attacks against journalists, warning that those who unjustifiably threaten or undermine the safety or security, freedom and wellbeing of media professionals in Nigeria should expect to be met with robust legal challenges.
Under a project supported by the Global Media Defence Fund (GMDF) through the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), MRA said it will provide pro bono legal assistance and litigation support to journalists in Nigeria whose rights are threatened or violated to protect their rights and combat the culture of impunity for such attacks, while also aiming to provide a safe environment for them to effectively carry out their work.
Announcing the take-off of the project, Ms Chioma Nwaodike, Head of MRA’s Legal Department, said: “We are excited to be able to implement this project, building on our previous efforts to promote and defend media freedom, and in particular, to provide legal assistance and litigation support to the media community in Nigeria to enable its members carry out their primary duties of educating and enlightening the society while also upholding the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people, as required by the Constitution.”
Miss Nwaodike explained that in furtherance of MRA’s objective of providing a safe and conducive environment for journalism practice in Nigeria, the organization will also undertake strategic litigation to challenge any obstacle to that goal.
According to her, “MRA is privileged to be supported in this endeavour by a network of seasoned and committed lawyers from across Nigeria who have agreed to deploy their knowledge, legal expertise and experience on behalf of journalists and media organizations in Nigeria free of charge in the event that their rights are violated or threatened or where their safety or security is in jeopardy.”
Ms Nwaodike noted that given MRA’s mandate to promote and defend media freedom, and the fact that the activities of those who attack journalists and the media serve to make the environment for media practice toxic, the organization will not always seek the consent of the affected journalists or media organizations before taking action.
She stressed: “We will explore all available legal mechanisms and instruments at national, regional and international levels as well as the protections and remedies that they offer. In every case we undertake on behalf of media victims of attacks, we will bring the full weight of the relevant instruments and mechanisms to bear on the perpetrators, regardless of whether they are government officials, law enforcement and security agents, or non-state actors.