Our Voices

Nigeria: Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Welcomes News That Charges Have Been Dropped Against Journalist Omoyele Sowore

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights welcomes the news that the Nigerian government has dropped all charges against prominent journalist and human rights activist, Omoyele “Yele” Sowore.

“Five years ago, the Nigerian government initiated an unjust trial against Omoyele Sowore on the basis of unsubstantiated charges,” said Kerry Kennedy, President at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “Despite sustained state-sponsored violence and harassment, Sowore has never wavered from his pursuit of justice. The Nigerian government must now take steps to compensate Sowore for the years of harassment they have subjected him to.”

Sowore is the founder of Sahara Reporters, a citizen journalism news site focused on exposing corruption, human rights abuses, and other political misconduct in Nigeria. As part of his work, Sowore founded #RevolutionNow, which called for a nationwide peaceful protest to fight corruption, and improve governance and security.

The Nigerian government’s decision to drop all charges against Sowore comes years after he was first arrested on August 3, 2019, two days before the #RevolutionNow’s first protest. He was charged with treason, cyberstalking, and money laundering, and was unlawfully detained for 143 days. RFK Human Rights submitted a petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) in November 2019, which determined that the Nigerian government arbitrarily detained Sowore in violation of international law.

Although Sowore was subsequently released in December 2019, stringent bail conditions were placed upon him and the government seized his passport so he could not leave the country, separating him from his family. On December 31, 2020 government authorities severely beat Sowore while he covered a peaceful protest in his capacity as a journalist and arbitrarily detained him for 11 days On May 31, 2021, an officer of the Nigerian Police Force shot and injured Sowore during a peaceful protest for better governance and improved security in Nigeria.

“As we celebrate this news with Sowore and his family, we must also remember that the Nigerian government never should have arbitrarily arrested, detained, and charged Sowore to begin with,” said Wade McMullen, SVP of Programs & Legal Strategy for Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “The Nigerian government must comply with the opinion of the United Nations Working Group to investigate the violations of Sowore’s human rights, hold those responsible to account, and provide the necessary compensation and reparations to Sowore.”

RFK Human Rights strongly condemns the Nigerian government’s use of censorship and arbitrary detention to severely restrict journalistic activities and civic space. We call on the Nigerian government to respect freedom of expression and opinion, especially press freedom, and to ensure an enabling environment for civic space.