Respite may have finally come the way of bloggers, journalists and media houses in Nigeria as the Digital Rights Lawyers Initiative (DRLI) – a civil society of lawyers litigating digital rights) recently launched a project to defend journalists, bloggers and media organizations who may run into legal issues in discharge of their duties. The one year long project known as Digital Rights Advancement Project (DRAP) is funded by the UK-based organization, Media Defence. Media Defence has consistently for ten 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 organizations in Nigeria. The rates of arbitrary arrests, detention, intimidation and prosecution of journalists had sky-rocketed in the recent time. 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 this project, the co-founder of the organization, Olumide Babalola expressed his excitement on the relief this project will bring to the tensed media landscape in Nigeria. In his words, Babalola noted that “This project will definitely bring relief to journalists in Nigeria and we are quite optimistic of positive results this project will bring. Freedom of Expression and the Press is the bedrock of democracy and a threat to it is a threat to our very existence as a people and our nation may not survive it if the current threats continue unabated. Journalists should be able to carry out their duties important stakeholders in democracy without fear of harm or attack” Babalola noted.
Babalola further noted that in days ahead, DRLI will be reaching out to journalists, media houses and their associations of the organization’s readiness to provide support for endangered journalists and media houses in Nigeria. According to him, the organization, with its nationwide network of digital rights lawyers, is poised to defend journalists in courts in any part of Nigeria.
Co-Founder and Director of Operations of the organization, 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 organization to do more for freedom of expression and free speech than it has been doing till now. In his words,
“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 noted.