By John Austin Unachukwu
A civil society of lawyers, Digital Rights Lawyers Initiative (DRLI), has launched a project to defend journalists, bloggers and media organisations who may run into legal issues in discharge of their duties.
The one-year project known as Digital Rights Advancement Project (DRAP), is funded by a UK-based organisation, Media Defence. Media Defence has consistently for 10 years, supported media freedom around the world including Africa through technical support for media freedom lawyers and litigation funding.
The project particularly seeks to provide courtroom defence for endangered media professionals and media organisations in Nigeria to stem the spate of arbitrary arrests, detention, intimidation and prosecution of journalists which had sky-rocketed in recent times.The last few years have indeed witnessed repressive media atmosphere in Africa’s most populous nation and this poses a great threat to the nation’s democracy.
Speaking on the project, the co-founder of the organisation, Olumide Babalola, expressed excitement on the reliefs this project will bring to the tensed media landscape in Nigeria.
He said: “This project will definitely bring relief to journalists in Nigeria and we are quite optimistic of positive results this project will foster freedom of expression. The press is the bedrock of democracy and any threat to it is a threat to our very existence as a people and our nation may not survive if the current threats continue unabated.
“Journalists should be able to carry out their duties as stakeholders in democracy without fear of harm or attack’’
Babalola stated that in days ahead, DRLI will be reaching out to journalists, media houses, assuring them of the organisation’s readiness to provide support for endangered journalists and media houses in Nigeria. The organisation, with its nationwide network of digital rights lawyers, is poised to defend journalists in courts in any part of Nigeria.
A co-founder and Director of Operations of the organisation, Mr. Solomon Okedara, is excited about this project and the funding provided by Media Defence, United Kingdom. Okedara noted that the project is a very timely one and the Media Defence’s funding will position the organisation to do more for freedom of expression and free speech than it has been doing till now.
”For all of us at DRLI, we are excited with this partnership with Media Defence as it will enable us do more than we are currently doing to protect freedom of speech and the press. We are confident that while there is much more to do with limited resources, we strongly believe that encouraging results from this current project will attract more funders as strategic stakeholders in the nation’s democracy project” Okedara stated.