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Nigeria's attorney-general advocates adoption of regional free expression legal framework

(MFWA/IFEX) - March 13, 2012 - The need for the adoption of a West African regional legal framework on Freedom of Expression (FOE) and Right to Information (RTI) received a significant endorsement on March 5, 2012, when Nigeria's Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, urged his colleagues from ECOWAS member countries to work towards bequeathing such a legal framework for the regional group, ECOWAS.

Mr. Adoke's support for the regional framework was contained in a statement presented on his behalf by the Federal Attorney, Mrs. Victoria Umoren, at the opening of a meeting of ECOWAS' Technical Committee on Legal and Judicial Affairs in Nigeria's Federal capital, Abuja. The meeting was to discuss and adopt ECOWAS' Draft Supplementary Act on a Uniform Legal Framework on Freedom of Expression and Right to Information in West Africa. He described the ongoing processes aimed at the eventual adoption of the Supplementary Act as “a step in the right direction.”

The Draft Supplementary Act, which is an initiative of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), had prior to its presentation at the Legal Experts meeting, received approval from ministers of information and communication from members states after extensive discussions and review by the ministers. Although some critical sections which sought to expand the frontiers of free expression in the region were removed at the meeting of information and communication ministers, the substantial part of the provisions of the framework was accepted.

The document is considered to be a progressive one that will contribute to the expansion and consolidation of the democratic tenets of freedom of expression and citizens' right to have access to information. By the doctrine of supra-nationality provided under the ECOWAS Revised Treaty, when the Supplementary Act is signed and adopted by the Heads of States and Government of the regional group, it becomes effective and applicable in ECOWAS member states.

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