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Court orders FG to investigate, prosecute killers of Dele Giwa, protect journalists

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Court orders FG to investigate, prosecute killers of Dele Giwa, protect journalists

A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Friday, ordered the Federal Government (FG) to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of the murder of founder of Newswatch Magazine, Dele Giwa, and other journalists in the country.

Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a judgment, also made an order directing the FG to take measures to prevent any future attacks on journalists and other media practitioners.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the applicant; the Incorporated Trustees of Media Rights Agenda, had sued the Attorney-General of Federation (AGF) as sole respondent in the suit dated and filed Oct. 26, 2021.

In the motion on notice marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1301/2021, the applicant sought a declaration that the killings of various journalists and media practitioners in Nigeria is a violation of their fundamental right to life.

“This right, according to the group, is encapsulated in Section 33 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, among other reliefs.
In the affidavit, the group listed some of the journalists murdered in the course of their duty to include Dele Giwa, killed on Oct 19, 1986; and Bolade Fasisi of National Association of Women Journalists, March 31, 1998.

“Others include Edward Olalekan of Daily Times, murdered on June 1, 1999; Omololu Falobi of The PUNCH Oct. 5, 2006; Godwin Agbroko of THISDAY, Dec. 22, 1999; Abayomi Ogundeji of THISDAY, Aug 17, 2008; and Edo Sule-Ugbagwu of The Nation, April 24, 2010.

Justice Ekwo, who observed that the AGF did not file any process to counter the arguments of the applicant, held that since the group’s arguments were not controverted, such arguments would be deemed to be true.

“I have studied the response of the respondent to the averments of the applicant, and I find the said averments to be generic nature and they do not controvert the case of the applicant specifically.
“The applicant has stated names of journalists killed in Paragraph J of the affidavit in support.
“It is pertinent to note that the respondent has neither denied that these killings have taken placed or that these persons were not journalists or media practitioners.

“The position of the law is that affidavit evidence, which is not challenged or controverted howsoever, is deemed admitted and can be relied upon by a court,” he said.

He said media is a constitutional profession, hence, the journalists and media practitioners ought to be protected in the course of the duties. The judge said he found in the end that the applicant had established its case by credible evidence and ought to be entitled to the reliefs sought.

“An Order is hereby made directing the Federal Government of Nigeria to take measures to prevent attacks on journalists and other media practitioners.

“An Order is hereby made directing the Federal Government of Nigeria to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of all attacks against journalists and other media practitioners, and ensure that all victims of attacks against journalists have access to effective remedies.

“An Order is hereby made directing the Federal Government to take measures to raise awareness and build the capacities of various stakeholders, particularly journalists and other media practitioners, policy makers, law enforcement, security, intelligence, military as well as other officials and relevant stakeholders on the laws and standards for ensuring the safety of journalists and media practitioners.
“This is the judgment of this court,” Justice Ekwo declared.

Dele Giwa is Nigerian journalists, he founded Newswatch in 1984, and the first edition was distributed on 28 January 1985. A 1989 description of the magazine said it “changed the format of print journalism in Nigeria and introduced bold, investigative formats to news reporting in Nigeria”.

Dele Giwa was killed by a parcel bomb in his home at Ikeja, Lagos State while in his study with Kayode Soyinka, on Sunday 19 October 1986.

The assassination occurred two days after he had been interviewed by State Security Service (SSS) officials. In an off-the-record interview with airport journalists, Lt. Col. A.K. Togun, the Deputy Director of the SSS had claimed that on 9 October Dele Giwa and Alex Ibru had organised a media parley for media executives and the newly created SSS.

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