West African Media Lawyers (WAMELA) congratulate Nigeria Bar Association for coming all out to enforce the Constitutional right of a 22 year old Yahaya Sharif. As we may recall, the Sharia Court siting in Kano passed death sentence on the sensational musician, who is alleged to have committed blasphemy against Prophet Mohammed in a song he shared on watsapp.
That Nigeria is a signatory to Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and African Charter on Human and People’s Right that guarantee freedom of expression online and onsite.
WAMELA reinstates its commitment to protect the media in West Africa. The Nigeria Director of WAMELA President Aigbokhan, Esq stated that Yahaya Shariff is a journalist with constitutional duty to his audience and deserve to be protected by government. WAMELA offers to partner with the defendant counsel to ensure that the death sentence is reversed also to ensure that the provision of the law leading to his conviction is declared null and void. Where a law is not progressive or abused, court should declare such legislation unconstitutional.
He added that journalism is a function shared by wide range of actors, including professional full-time reporters, bloggers, broadcasters, analysts and others who engage in formal or self-publication in print, in the internet or elsewhere. This also includes persons performing their tasks in the conduct of their profession, like taking photographer or distributing visual or audio content online as in this case is valid for history.
Free communication of information and ideas about political and public issues between citizens, and government without restrain is essential for survival of democracy. He concluded by saying that “the constitution or other enabling laws do not prohibit expression of an erroneous opinion or an incorrect interpretation of past events or ongoing activity of a religion. Every form of opinion is protected under the constitution. This includes opinion relating to political discourse, commentary on one’s own and on public affairs, including opinion of a political, scientific, historic, artistic, moral or religion nature. To criminalize or sanction the holding of an opinion is itself a crime and incompatible with the Constitution.