MLDI calls upon UN and AU Special Mechanisms to intervene in arbitrary detention of Nigerian journalist

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Posted on: 
27 Aug 2019

Media Legal Defence Initiative, Index on Censorship, Article 19 West Africa and 45 other international and Nigerian human rights and press freedom organisations have filed an urgent appeal to the UN and AU Special Mechanisms calling for their intervention in the arbitrary arrest and detention of Nigerian journalist and human rights defender Mr Omoyele Sowore.

Mr Sowore is a prominent journalist, human rights activist and pro-democracy campaigner. He is the founder of Sahara Reporters, an online news agency based in New York City that focuses on corruption, human rights abuses and other political misconduct in Nigeria. He was arrested on 3 August 2019, following his call for a peaceful protest using the hashtag #RevolutionNow. The objective of the protest was to demand that the Nigerian government end corruption and economic inequality and guarantee education to all.

Following his arrest, Mr Sowore was initially denied access to his lawyers and he is yet to be arraigned before a competent court. No charges have been filed, but the Federal Court has granted a request from the Nigerian State Security Service to detain Mr Sowore for 45 days to conduct investigations under the 2013 Terrorism Act. Efforts by Mr Sowore’s legal team in Nigeria, led by Mr Femi Falana, to petition his release have been unsuccessful thus far.

The 48 organisations who filed the Urgent Appeal argue that Mr Sowore’s treatment constitutes a violation of his right not to be arbitrarily detained, right to a fair trial, right to freedom of expression, right of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and his rights as a human rights defender. The organisations, assisted by Nani Jansen Reventlow from Doughty Street Chambers, are calling upon the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the situation of human rights defenders, and African Commission Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression and human rights defenders to:

  • intervene urgently to secure the immediate release of Mr Sowore; and
  • declare his arrest and continuing detention a gross violation of his human rights.

“The arrest and detention of Sahara Reporter's founder, Omoyele Sowore, is without doubt a threat to press freedom and investigative journalism in Nigeria,” said La Keisha Landrum Pierre, COO of Sahara Reporters. “Sowore has used the word ‘revolution’ contextually to mean ‘change for the better’ since he founded Sahara Reporters in 2006. He then stated that he would “revolutionise” the way news is being reported: something he actually did by leading the pioneering efforts in citizen journalism in Nigeria. We are shocked that a government that rode to power on the promise to wipe out corruption and be the ‘voice of the voiceless’ is trying to silence the call for change by the same people who elected it.”

Media Legal Defence Initiative has previously supported Mr Sowore in legal action he faced as a result of his work.

The organisations are:

All Workers' Convergence (AWC); Afrika Movement for Freedom and Justice (AMFJ), Agege Women Agenda (AWA), ARTICLE 19 Senegal/West Africa, Chidi Odinkalu (Open Society Justice Initiative), Centre for Constitutional Rights, Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice (CHRSJ), Coalition for Revolution (CORE), Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Community Women Initiatives (CWI), The Concerned Forum, Congress of Progressive Youths (COPY), Democratic Youth League, Edo State Civil Society Organisation (EDOSCO), Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria, Freedom of Expression Hub, Gani Fawehinmi Apostles, Gani Fawehinmi Memorial Organization (, Governance Advancement Initiative for Nigeria (GAIN), Global Voice Sub-Saharan Africa, Grassroot Justice Centre,  Human and Environment Development Agenda (HEDA), Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-UGANDA), IAmVocal, Index on Censorship, Media Legal Defence Initiative, Media Rights Agenda, People's Alternative Front (PAF), Moshood Abiola Vanguard for Democracy (MAVD), Movement For People's Rights, National Conscience Party (NCP), Lagos State Branch; Nigerians in Diaspora Europe, Belgium-Luxembourg (NIDOE-BeLux), Open Society for West Africa (OSIWA) Nigeria Office, Paradigm Initiative, People's Alternative Front (PAF), Peoples' Unite, Rivers State Civil Society Coalition (RIVSCO), Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), Save Lagos Group, Socialist Vanguard Tendency (SVT), Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Sovereign Vital Force, Spaces for Change, Take-It-Back (TiB) Movement, Talakawa Parliament, Veteran Group for Operation Clean Crusade (VGOCC), Women for Leadership Change, Workbond International Network (WIN), Youth In Good Governance Initiative (YIGGI).