The Committee to Protect Journalists alongside 19 Nigerian, African and international organisations today signed an open letter addressed to the upper chamber of Nigeria’s parliament calling for the rejection of a bill which would undermine press freedom, stifle public opinion, and criminalize freedom of expression in Nigeria.
The bill, titled the “Frivolous Petitions Bill 2015,” which passed its second reading at the Nigerian Senate on December 1, would impose a two-year prison sentence or a 2 million naira (about US$10,000) or both, for any person who “through text message, tweets, WhatsApp, or through any social media” posts any abusive statement against any person and/or group of persons or government institution, according to news reports.
The bill also seeks to compel any person who might want to petition, file a complaint, or report a person’s conduct for the purpose of an investigation to file a sworn affidavit in a court–a requirement that would compel whistle-blowers to reveal their identity and put them at risk, said Frank Tietie, a lawyer who heads the Abuja-based Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER). The punishment for noncompliance would be a six-month prison sentence without the option of a fine.
A person who makes any allegation or publishes any petition in any paper, radio, or other medium with intent to discredit a person, group, or government institution could be punished with two years’ imprisonment or a fine of 4 million naira (about US$20,000).
Read the full letter here.