The 2021 edition of the West Africa Media Excellence Conference and Awards (WAMECA) will host renowned human rights lawyer and West Africa’s foremost media defence lawyer, Femi Falana, as the guest of honour.
Femi Falana is a legal practitioner and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria who specialises in constitutional and human rights law. He is also a former President of the West Africa Bar Association (WABA).
Over the last two decades, Femi has built a reputation as an activist and defender of the rights of journalists and citizens across the different countries in West Africa. He has won several landmark cases in Nigeria and at the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice.
He recently took on the Federal Government of Nigeria for freezing the bank accounts of the #ENDSARS protest leaders for over 90 days without due cause. He also sued the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, in the ECOWAS Court for suspending Twitter, calling the ban on Twitter a “provocative infringement.”
In 2008 and 2010, he secured landmark victories at the ECOWAS Court against the government of The Gambia in favour of Gambian journalists, Musah Saidykhan and Chief Ebrima Manneh, who suffered torture and enforced disappearance respectively, at the hands of the Yahaya Jammeh government. He also served as lawyer for journalist and founder of online publication, Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, who was held by the Nigerian authorities in breach of his rights. In 2019, he secured the release of the Editor and Publisher of The Source Newspaper, Jones Abiri, who had been detained by Nigeria’s State Security Service (SSS) since 2016.
In recognition of his exceptional qualities in, and dedication to human rights law and criminal law, Femi Falana in 2008, received the International Bar Association’s Bernard Simons Memorial Award. He has been a keynote speaker at conferences of the ECOWAS Community Court and many other international legal convenings.
As Guest of Honour at this year’s WAMECA, Lawyer Femi Falana will make a statement on the rising spate of digital legislation in Africa that tend to strengthen state control over citizens’ use of internet, online communication outlets and digital media platforms including social media as well as present the award to the overall best journalist in West Africa.
This year’s edition of West Africa’s biggest journalism event will be the fifth since the initiative was instituted by the MFWA. Both the Conference and Awards will come off on Friday, October 22, 2021, under the theme: Misinformation, Digital Media Regulation and Journalism in Africa. It is will host more than 250 participants virtually and in person from West Africa and beyond.
WAMECA brings together stakeholders from government, media, civil society, academia and the general public each year to deliberate on key challenges to media development and explore ways to support the media to promote good governance, regional integration and peace in West Africa. The Awards ceremony held each year (after the Conference) honours West African journalists who have produced compelling works which have had significant impact on society.