World Press Freedom Day: Group Calls for Journalists’ Protection, Sustenance of Democracy
The Institute for Media and Society, IMS, has called for a renewed commitment to the protection of Journalists, the creation of an enabling environment for journalism and freedom of expression work, and the promotion of democracy.
The call is coming as World Press Freedom Day is marked globally today, 3rd May, 2023.
World Press Day is observed to raise awareness on the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This year’s celebration marks 30 years since the UN General Assembly’s decision proclaiming an international day for press freedom.
It has as its theme, ‘Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights’.
The IMS Executive Director, Dr. Akin Akingbulu in a statement to mark the day, said while the the day is set aside to highlight the importance of free and independent media as a cornerstone of democracy and development, IMS sees in it an opportunity to appreciate the contributions of Journalists and the media, and to seek improvement in their work and conditions.
The theme, according to UNESCO, he said, signifies ‘the enabling element of freedom of expression to enjoy and protect all other human rights.
He acknowledged that in Nigeria, the media has maintained a remarkable level of hard work and resilience, and has played an important role in promoting transparency, accountability, and good governance.
“Journalists and other professionals’ have frequently exposed corruption, beamed the searchlight on human rights violations, and reported on public-interest events, issues and trends.
“In the cause of these constitutionally supported contributions, Journalists have faced obstacles which jeopardise their ability to do their work without fear or favour.
“The obstacles to journalism have become more pronounced in recent times, especially in the electoral process.
“During Nigeria’s recent elections, Journalists experienced attacks in the form of physical attacks, arrests, harassment and intimidation, denial of access to election activities, among others.
“These were perpetrated by state and non-state actors.
“There has been the dimension of government regulation. Through imposition of arbitrary sanctions such as heavy fines, regulatory authorities have made professional work difficult for media professionals and media organisations.
“What of legislation? A large number of anti-media legislations are in the books. They include old, colonial era laws such as on criminal defamation, and security legislations such as those on anti-terrorism and cybercrime which are used to persecute media professionals.
“Laws which were enacted to establish government broadcasting outfits contains harsh censorship provisions which hamstring editorial freedom. Equally worrisome is the rash of harsh bills proposed for passage into law in the National Assembly,” he said.
Dr. Akingbulu noted that public policy development is also an area of critical concern, adding that for a long time, there has been no visible policy document for the media and expression sector.
According to him, in the absence of clear policy direction, arbitrariness and confusion rule in the making and implementation of legislations and regulations.
This, he said, should not be the case.
He maintained that as World Press Freedom Day is marked globally, IMS urges all stakeholders to recognise the essential role that a free and independent media place in fostering a well-organised society and a serious democracy.
The group called on the government to develop with stakeholders, an up-to-date, International standard public policy for the information sector, reform media legislations and broadcasting regulations in consonance with the direction of the Media Policy and make the National Human Rights Protection Action Plan recently approved by the Federal Executive Council publicly available for citizens’ contribution and engagements.
“We call on government to investigate and address all pending cases on attacks on Journalists and other media professionals including those committed during the recent elections, to remove all obnoxious laws such as those on sedition, criminal defamation and implement the judgments of the ECOWAS court which mandated the amendments of section 24 of the Cyber Crime Act,” he suggested.
Akingbulu saluted the media stakeholders in Nigeria for the establishment of a National Media Complaints Commission and implore them to ensure the effective management and sustainability, even as he enjoined stakeholders to give maximum support to the initiative.
He said; “We call on Journalists and the media to remain resolute in performing their constitutional assigned task of holding the government accountable to the people.”