Nigeria Is Media Friendly Nation- Minister

Joyce Onwuka

The Federal Government says that Nigerian press remains among the

most vibrant and freest in the world, and as such has dismissed the 2021 annual World Press Freedom Index that characterized Nigeria as a country not conducive to

the practice of journalism.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, dismissed the report on Tuesday in Abuja when he received the executive members of the Nigerian chapter of the International Press Institute (IPI) on a courtesy visit to his office.

The President of IPI Nigeria, Mr. Muskilu Mojeed, who led the executive members on the visit, had cited the World Press Freedom Index as an example of the country’s low rating in the area of press freedom.

“I disagree with your assessment of press freedom under this

government. Honestly, at times when I read what the media write here

about Nigeria, I begin to wonder whether I live in the same country

that they are writing about.

“I disagree vehemently with the assessment because it is unfounded and

has no scientific basis. I have been the Minister (of Information and

Culture) since 2015 so I know the state of press freedom in Nigeria,”

the Minister said.

He clarified that some people have misconstrued government’s efforts

to ensure a responsible use of social media as an attempt to tamper

with press freedom or threaten independent journalism, emphasizing

that the government does not harbor such intentions.

Alhaji Mohammed reiterated that the present government 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.

“After all, this must be one of the very few countries in the world

where a section of the media can refuse to recognize popular

sovereignty, or how does one describe a situation in which a President

who was duly elected by millions of Nigeria is willfully stripped of

that title, President, and then cheekily cloaked in the garb of a

dictator by playing up his military title? Despite that abuse of press

freedom, those doing that have continued to practice their profession

without hindrance.

“Ours must also be one of the few countries in the world where a

reputable medium will report fake news and, when called out, will not

retract or apologize,” he said.

The Minister enjoined the media to always stick to their

constitutional watchdog role, and not to constitute themselves into a

political opposition.

He also charged IPI Nigeria to take seriously the issues of ethics,

credibility and fake news, among others, in relation to the practice

of journalism in the country.

”For example, on the issue of ethics, is it part of the ethics of

journalism for a media organization to function like an opposition

party, seeing nothing good in the government of the day and only

reporting bad news?” Alhaji Mohammed queried.

He called for a sustained engagement between the government and the

IPI in order to share views on how to enhance the practice of

journalism in the country.

In his remarks, the President of IPI Nigeria, Mr. Mojeed, said the

visit was part of a series of engagements with governmental and

non-governmental organizations to enhance independent journalism and

operating environment for journalists and media organizations in

Nigeria.

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