Nigeria Has Vibrant, Free Press- Lai Mohammed

Yemisi Izuora

Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed has told the world that Nigeria is one of the few countries where journalists are free to practice their profession.

This claim is coming as the International Press Center, IPC, and Media Rights Agenda, MRA have called for actions against incessant harassment of journalists in the country by state actors.

Speaking at the presentation of the UNESCO World Report on Freedom of Expression at the regional forum For West Africa on Thursday, the Minister, said, “As a country, Nigeria has always championed the observance of rights

of freedom of expression and the safety of journalists.

He said he was cited to be a part of this West Africa Regional Forum on

the presentation of the 2021/2022 Report on the Global Trends in

Freedom of Expression and Media Development.

However, we have always insisted that this right that we all enjoy, especially as media practitioners, comes with a huge responsibility; a

responsibility that says we must be circumspect in the use of

information at our disposal to avoid misinformation, fake news and

hate speech which, if not well managed, could lead to serious

disaffection and chaos in the society.”

He further said, “I make bold to state here that Nigeria has a vibrant, pluralistic and free press, and this would not have been possible without an enabling

environment.”

“I reiterated this point when I received the executive members of the

Nigerian chapter of the International Press Institute (IPI) at my

office in Abuja recently. At that meeting, I restated the commitment

of the present Administration, led by His Excellency, President

Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, that under our watch, the media will never be

seen as a threat, but as key partners in progress of our dear country.”

According to him, In Nigeria, we have made the freedom of expression not just a guiding principle but also a key priority, just like the safety of our media practitioners.

Continuing, Mohammed added, “Since my assumption of office, I have made it a point of duty to regularly engage with several stakeholders in the media space, with a view to strengthening the information sector and building the capacities of our media practitioners for better service delivery.

“I have met with journalists under the various umbrella unions, media

owners and executives, online media practitioners and bloggers, among

others, in this regard.

“As a Ministry, we have organised seminars, workshops and symposia for

media stakeholders. A key workshop organised in collaboration with

UNESCO in 2018 was on Conflict Reporting and Safety of Journalists. We

have also been celebrating World Press Freedom Day yearly by

organising symposia, the last time being in 2021 when we held a

symposium themed Journalism as a public good.”

He told the forum that the ministry is organising, in collaboration with UNESCO and other partners, a workshop in celebration of World Press Freedom Day, after the global celebrations.

He said, “We remain resolute in our determination to continue to provide the enabling environment for media practitioners to thrive within the ambits of our laws.

The Minister stated that the freedom of expression being

enjoyed comes with huge responsibility, noting, “It is sad that some of our

compatriots in the journalism profession take advantage of this

freedom to engage in misinformation and hate speech and to spread fake

news. That was why we launched a national campaign against fake news

and hate speech in 2018, a campaign that has brought the issue to the

front burner of national discourse.”

He urged journalists within the West African subregion to join

hands with various governments to curb the activities of such

journalists who taint the image and good works of those of us who

desire to uphold the ethos and professionalism of this very important

profession

“As a step towards the realization of this, I call on journalists and

media houses to set up a fact- checking desk, so as to arrest the

prevalence of misinformation, fake news and hate speech in our

society.” he stated.

He commended UNESCO and its partners for putting up the report and promised to study the report and the recommendations contained therein with the seriousness it deserves.

He said Nigeria will be hosting the 2022 Global Media and Information Literacy Week, the first country within our subregion to host this event and solicited the support of all relevant stakeholders for the success of this global event.

Mohammed, commended the UNESCO Regional office for organising this forum to present this all important report that seeks to strengthen our media space, adding “As we all know, issues surrounding freedom of expression and safety of journalists are topical and dear to democracy.

“May I also appreciate UNESCO for its efforts at promoting an enabling

environment for the entrenchment of freedom of expression and the

safety of journalists. The report being presented today will further

provide our leaders, media administrators, practitioners and indeed

various stakeholders in the information sector insights into the

successes achieved and the multidimensional challenges to freedom of

expression and media development, within the context of our various

legal frameworks.

“It is a well known fact that freedom of expression is a fundamental

human right enshrined in our various statutes and legal mechanisms.

And it is also a key feature of democracy across the world. Article 19

of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights captures this succinctly.

“Over the years, countries have made efforts to liberalise the media

landscape by making it conducive for practitioners through adoption of

laws in this regard. We have also seen the glaring need to protect

journalists, as well as build their capacities to conform to the

ever-changing standards of practice, especially with emerging

technologies and particularly social media. UNESCO has provided

leadership in this regard.”

 

 

 

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