By Cindy Cohn, Electronic Frontier Foundation, September 2019
EFF has long been concerned that—unless carefully drafted and limited—cyberstalking laws can be misused to criminalize political speech. In fact, earlier this year we celebrated a federal court decision in Washington State in the United States that tossed out an overbroad cyberstalking law.
In the case, the law had been used to silence a protester who used strong language and persistence in criticizing a public official. EFF filed an amicus brief in that case where we cautioned that such laws could be easily misused and the court agreed with us.
Now the problem has occurred in a high-profile political case in Nigeria. Just this week the Nigerian government formally filed “cyberstalking” charges against Omoyele Sowore, a longtime political activist and publisher of the respected Sahara Reporters online news agency. Sowore had organized political protests in Nigeria under the hashtag #RevolutionNow and conducted media interviews in support of his protest.
He was detained along with another organizer between early August and late September before being granted bail. He reports that he has been beaten and denied access to his family and, for a while, denied access to an attorney.
The charges make clear that this prosecution is a misuse of the overbroad cyberstalking statute, passed in 2015. They state that Sowore committed cyberstalking by: “knowingly sent messages by means of press interview granted on ‘arise Television’ network which you knew to be false for the purpose of causing insult, enmity, hatred and ill-will on the person of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Read the full story via EFF