Huriwa Logo

Huriwa Logo

Friday, 23 September 2011


15th July, 2008.
Director of News,
Nigerian Television Authority,
NTA Network,
Area 11, Abuja.

Dear Sir/Madam,


The Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) is a registered non-governmental but democracy inclined organization of deep thinkers, poets, Journalists and creative writers who deploy their creative talents collectively to work for the comprehensive enthronement of the Rule of Law, durable democracy and respect for the Human Rights of Nigerians.

HURIWA is writing to protest in the strongest possible terms, the unconstitutional style of news coverage of crime suspects by virtually all leading national newspapers and electronic media including yours, sir.

Sir, as writers and Journalists, we note with sadness that crime suspects are not only subjected to dehumanization by the security operatives in the full glare of the media workers who usually see nothing wrong or untoward with the use of torture even when section 34(1) of the 1999 constitution states that; “Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his/her person, and accordingly, no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment”.

Sir, we note that Journalism being the only profession specifically mandated by the Constitution to monitor the activities of all segments of the Nigerian society and expose the ills that afflict the polity as enshrined in section 22 of the 1999 constitution, it is therefore disappointing that crime reporters criminalize crime suspects in the styles and manners of presenting news reports of the regular parade by security operatives of crime suspects in Nigeria.

Sir, we wish to draw your attention to section 36(1) and (5) of the 1999 constitution which provides that crime suspects ought to be granted fair hearing and that all crime suspects are presumed innocent until proven otherwise by competent Courts of law and not the media.   

Section 36(1) provides that “in the determination of his/her Civil Rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority, or other tribunal established by Law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality”. This section of the constitution prescribes fair hearing for all crime suspects irrespective of the gravity or otherwise of the alleged crime.

Section 36 (5) of the 1999 constitution clearly provides that; “every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be PRESUMED to be INNOCENT until he/she is proved guilty”.

Sir, we wish to state emphatically that only the competent courts of law covered under section 6 of the 1999 constitution have the powers to pronounce crime suspects guilty or not. We note with sadness that current sensationalization of crime coverage in the Nigerian media has helped to promote impunity among security operatives. Our group is in no way opposed to the media coverage of crime suspects but objects strongly to what may amount to media trial of crime suspects as seen in most Nigerian media including your own.

For purposes of example, Sir, we call your attention to most weekend editions of virtually all Nigerian Newspapers which project crime suspects like already convicted criminals even before they are charged before the courts of law. Page 51 story of Sunday Punch of July 13th, 2008, among several other instances go to show that crime suspects are convicted in the media even before they get their opportunities to defend themselves in the competent courts.

By this letter sir, we are praying that crime suspects should not be made to undergo media trial or persecution as that will strengthen the security operatives to continue with the use of torture as the acceptable crime fighting mechanism. The media as the agent of change should engage in the crusade against all forms of impunity including media prosecution and/or persecution of crime suspects.

In other climes, as you are well aware, suspects’ identities are protected before they are convicted in the law courts and crime suspects who are below the legal age of consent are not exposed in the media. The show of shame which are regularly relayed in the electronic media and to some extent the print media, whereby crime suspects are chained, maimed, physically abused by the security operatives and these human beings are broadcast as if they have already been convicted by the competent courts of law, to put it mildly, is reprehensible, unacceptable in a democracy and unconstitutional.

Please Sir; it would be appreciated if our letter is given the widest publicity ever by your widely read news papers and electronic media house.

Accept the assurance of our highest esteem and consideration.
Yours in national service,

Comrade Emmauel Onwubiko
National Coordinator.     

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