The International Press Institute (IPI) Nigeria has said that it will open a book of infamy to document every individual whose action or inaction encourages or allows the harassment of journalists and the media in Nigeria.
President of IPI Nigeria, Musikilu Mojeed, stated this during a courtesy visit by the body to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed in Abuja.
IPI Nigeria’s Secretary, Ahmed I. Shekarau, quoted Mojeed as saying the move became necessary in view of the country’s worsening press freedom record under the current administration.
He said, “I like to inform you of a decision recently taken by the Nigerian National Committee of IPI. We have decided to open a ‘black book’ to document every individual whose action or inaction encourages or allows the harassment of journalists and the media in Nigeria.
“The records so gathered will be regularly updated and shared periodically with embassies, and all relevant international and human rights groups across the world.
“We will use the records to ensure named individuals are held accountable one way or another.”
He said there were many Nigerians who believe the media was freer and stronger in 2015 than it is now, a perception that tallies with at least two global rankings.
According to him, between 2013 and 2015, Nigeria improved on the annual World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders.
“Nigeria was ranked 115 out of the 180 countries surveyed in 2013, 112/180 in 2014 and 111/180 in 2015. But the reverse has been the case since 2016 when we were ranked 116/180.
“The situation worsened in the succeeding years. The country was ranked 122/180 in 2017, 119/180 in 2018, 120/180 in 2019, 115/180 in 2020 and 120/180 in 2021.
“In fact, the 2021 ranking described Nigeria as ‘one of West Africa’s most dangerous and difficult countries for journalists, who are often spied on, attacked, arbitrarily arrested or even killed’,” he said.
He said the country is not faring any better in the Freedom in the World Report, an annual report by Freedom House.
“We scored a cumulative 43/100 in the global freedom scores and was ranked a partly free country in the 2022 report, a performance worse than our 2021 showing when we scored 45/100,” he said.
Responding, the minister said Nigeria is one of the very few countries in the world where journalists continued to practice their profession without hindrance despite abuse of press freedom.
“I remember saying at the opening of the 2016 IPI World Congress in Qatar that the government of the day in Nigeria is not a threat to the media, and that it is not about to stifle press freedom or deny anyone his or her constitutionally-guaranteed rights,” he said.
“That statement remains true today as it was then. I even told the congress that the Nigerian media have no reason to fear the government, and that — if anything, it is the government that is at the mercy of the media. That, too, remains true today.
He also said some persons misconstrued the government’s efforts to ensure a responsible use of social media as an attempt to tamper with press freedom or threaten independent journalism.
He said, “We do not harbour such intentions, and that is why we invited stakeholders, including the NUJ and the Nigerian Guild of Editors, to sit down with us to fashion a way forward in this regard.”
He, therefore, appealed to IPI Nigeria not to relent in its promise to take a holistic look at the issues of fake news, credibility and ethics, among others.
Other members of the IPI Nigeria in the delegation to the Minister were the Treasurer of the body, Rafatu Salami; the Managing Director of Triumph newspapers, Lawal Sabo Ibrahim; the Head of Media and Public Relations of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Dr. Fabian Benjamin, and the Features Editor of Peoples Daily Newspaper, Ochiaka Ugwu.