Trouble in Nigeria

And just about everywhere else.

I’m Scott Nover. Welcome back to Pressing, a newsletter about press freedom. If you haven’t yet subscribed, you can do so here and receive this letter in your inbox every Tuesday morning as well as special features for paid subscribers.

This is the 24th issue of Pressing and it’s great to have you with me. Please send me feedback, thoughts, suggestions, and tips at

Press Freedom Cracking in Nigeria

On Friday, Nigerian journalist and activist Omoyele Sowore was re-arrested. He was only released from his original detention merely 24 hours earlier. The government had claimed Sowore called for “a revolution” and arrested him and Olawale Bakare for 125 days. According to a report from Quartz Africa, Nigeria’s government has cracked down on journalists and dissidents since president Muhammadu Buhari’s party won big in the February elections:

Some powerful state governors now regularly use security agents to arrest and intimidate journalists and activists who dare to question their actions or attempt to hold them accountable.

A permanent U.S. resident, Sowore lives in New Jersey. His imprisonment sparked criticism from the state’s leaders including U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, a presidential candidate. “That is unacceptable in a country that calls itself a democracy,” Mendendez said. “The world is watching.”

Sowore ran in the recent presidential elections against Bahari—he received 33,953 votes, or .12% of the vote.

The Quartz article ends on an ominous note:

The question facing media practitioners in Nigeria is, if a high profile journalist like Omoyele Sowore, with a high profile lawyer, like Femi Falana, are going through this ordeal in the hands of the government, what hope is there for less known journalists?

There’s a number of other journalists in prison on charges including terrorism, treason, disturbing the peace. The question Quartz poses isn’t a hypothetical.

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Flipping Through The Headlines

  • From The Guardian: A week after WhatsApp filed a lawsuit against NSO Group, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has opened an investigation into the Israeli spyware company amidst suspicions they hacked U.S. citizens. The WhatsApp lawsuit claims “more than 100 human rights activists, journalists, lawyers and academics were among those targeted.” WhatsApp has also referred its complaints to the U.S. Department of Justice, claiming the company violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

  • From The Washington Post: Jason Rezaian writes about the Saudi Media Forum, part of an ongoing “press freedom masquerade.” Rezaian notes his dismay that reporters from Western news outlets including the Guardian, Le Figaro, and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitun were participating, perhaps aiding the charade. “They are trying to tell the world that it’s time to move on from the killing of [Jamal] Khashoggi. But I completely disagree,” the Committee to Protect JournalistsSherif Mansour told Rezaian. “There isn’t a venue big enough to contain the enormous elephant in the room.”

By the Numbers

6: The International Documentary Association (IDA) gave out six awards Sunday, honoring Syrian filmmaker Waad al-Kateab, actress Leah Remini, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press among others.

7: At least seven journalists were arrested in Saudi Arabia from November 16 to 21, according to CPJ. The government did not give reasons for the arrests.

100: Nearly 100 people protested the Pakistani newspaper Dawn on Friday: protesters burned copies of the newspapers and blocked the entrance. Staffers received death threats.

Required Reading: Malta in Context

Last week, we covered the resignation of Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, under fire for the bungled investigation into the 2017 car bomb assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

In her column, the Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan writes about the work of Caruana Galizia’s three sons to bring those responsible to justice. The three brothers — in their early 30s — petitioned the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to investigate their mother’s death. In turn the assembly appointed a special rapporteur, Pieter Omtzigt from the Netherlands. The brothers credit Omtzigt’s report — as well as the work of the international journalism collective the Daphne Project — with setting the wheels in motion for real accountability in the Maltese government.

Read Margaret’s column in full here.

In the News

One Last Thing!

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