The Media Legal Defence Initiative, in partnership with the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, has put together a project that will grant legal aid for members of the press who are victims of an attack. This is another prong in the fight for press freedom within Nigeria.
Nigeria ranks poorly in the Global Press Freedom Index and the Nigerian press has suffered in the hands of constricting laws and overzealous state and nonstate actors. In 2019 alone, the Press Attack Tracker, a civic technology tool developed by the PTCIJ to monitor and track attacks on the press, has reported 18 cases of different forms of attacks on members of the press, including unlawful arrests and detention, harassment and one case of death.
Often times, journalists are unable to pursue legal means to either demand for their rights or prove their innocence due to the high cost of legal fees, especially when compared to the poor remuneration Nigerian journalists receive. It is this gap that the Legal Aid for Journalists project has come to bridge, providing legal advice to journalists as well as take legal action on behalf of journalists where the need arises.
The Legal Aid Project will focus attention on cases that involve punitive and constricting media laws which suffocate press freedom in the country. The aim is to set a legal precedent that invalidates these laws and provide justice for members of the press who have been wrongfully attacked.
In executing this project, PTCIJ will set up a coalition of lawyers working on fundamental human rights and press freedom who will provide guidance in the review of press freedom cases as well as legal advice. The Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism is also developing a Bot that will be situated on the Press Attack Tracker website and can connect its users to lawyers who can provide legal advice and/or aid, in cases of attacks against the press.
PTCIJ is hopeful that this approach, along with others, will lead to improved statistics for press freedom in the country.5