The Online Publishers Association of Nigeria (OPAN) has sued the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) over what it terms the unlawful use of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, Etc.) Act 2015 to oppress journalists in the country.
The association through its President Austyn Ogannah and General Secretary Daniel Elombah contends that the Act does not comply with the constitution of the country and goes against the values of journalism stressing that Section 24(1)(b) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, Etc.) Act 2015 is not reasonably justifiable in a Democratic Society under Sections 39(3) and 45(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
It insists that section 24(1)(b) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, Etc.) Act 2015 is not constitutional and valid by virtue of Sections 1(3) and 39(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
The matter came up on 17th October 2018, before the Hon. Justice Aikawa.
The Court granted a Motion Ex Parte seeking leave to serve the Originating Summons on the Hon. Attorney General of the Federation in the FCT, Abuja.
The AGF has been served and the suit was thereafter adjourned to 23rd November, 2018 for mention.
OPAN maintains that though the Cybercrimes Act crimes which states that ‘it is declared a crime for any person to disseminate information through a computer, which he knows to be false for the purpose of causing annoyance, insult, danger, etc to another’ seems harmless on the surface, it has been a tool used by the Federal government to muzzle journalists in the country.
Describing the act as being vague and ambiguous OPAN stresses that it is used by the ‘State and high-profile persons to intimidate and oppress online journalists and to stifle open constructive criticism of governance, commercial activities and public conduct by Nigerians using the New or Digital Media.
According to the law suit, the right to freedom of expression and the press can only be curtailed by a law reasonably justifiable in a democratic societyand aggrieved persons ‘aggrieved over a libelous publication has a remedy in a civil action for defamation’
The association has also recommended that that irrelevant aspects of the act that affects journalist adversely be expunged.
The attorney general has therefore been summoned to appear before the high court in Lagos to answer to the accusations levied against the government by the association.