FG underscores imperativeness of free press to democracy

•HURIWA seeks journalist’s release as MRA, IPC chronicle attacks

Minister of Information and Orientation, Mohammed Idris Malagi, has linked the survival of democratic rule to a free press.

Addressing the Press Freedom and Good Governance Awards, organised by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Abuja at the weekend, he expressed the commitment of President Bola Tinubu administration to an unfettered media.

Calling on practitioners to adhere all time to extant rules and regulations, the minister stressed that it was incumbent on the professionals to check disinformation and fake news in the media space.

“Whatever you say or do, you have to remember that you have a country to build, despite whichever side you belong. Purveyors of falsehood cannot be your friends. They are your enemies. You cannot say what is not right and claim that you are exercising freedom of expression. Your rights and other people’s rights should align,” he advised.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, pledged parliament’s readiness to review moribund media laws to suit modern realities and democratic ethos and principles.

Represented by the Chairman of the Committee on Media, Akin Rotimi, the Speaker said the 10th House recognises the integral place of a free and responsible press in the activities of government.
Abbas, who presented the keynote address, submitted that as a critical partner in the pursuit of good governance and national development, the lower legislative chamber remains steadfast in providing media organisations with the enabling environment to creditably discharge their duties.

Governor Hyacinth Alia of Benue State, on his part, urged journalists to execute their responsibilities without fear or favour, reminding them that everyone has a role to play in the sustenance of the nation’s democracy.

He applauded the role of the media in nation-building.
NUJ National President, Chris Isiguzo, called on government at all levels to support the press to bring about good governance.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has called for the unconditional release of an investigative journalist, Daniel Ojukwu, and the prosecution of his abductors.

It stated that the Gestapo abduction of the reporter by the Intelligence Response Team of the Inspector General of Police was a “criminal act of aggression that should never be tolerated in any democracy.”

Its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, in a statement at the weekend, said the group was not in any way “surprised that this primitive act of police sabotage of constitutionalism has happened because they know and they are living witnesses to the obvious fact that freedom of the press is dead in Nigeria, and democracy is very sick.”

The body stated: “This was why we called on Nigerians to be vigilant on Friday, May 3, 2024, when the World marked International Press Freedom Day. This brute act of criminality by the Office of the Inspector General of Police has demonstrated the absolute falsehood in the distorted and farcical claim by the Information Minister that the government of Tinubu has no history of any arrest of journalists even when it is true that Segun Olatunji of First News was kidnapped by soldiers from the Defence Headquarters, which is directly under the control and command of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of the federation.”

This is even as the Media Rights Agenda (MRA), at the weekend, revealed that between May 2023 and April 2024, no fewer than 45 attacks on journalists and media houses were recorded.

The assaults came in various forms, including arbitrary arrests and detentions, kidnappings, threats, battery and killings.
The organisation stated that the development signals the continuation of violence and intimidation of journalists.

Speaking through Dideolu Ogba at an interactive session in Lagos, MRA said it had monitored the state of media freedom since President Bola Tinubu took office.

According to its scorecard, there have disturbing attacks on journalists and media houses across the federation.

The Executive Director, Edetaen Ojo, said in 37 of the attacks, the victims were male journalists, representing 82 per cent, while in four of the onslaughts, the victims were female journalists, representing nine per cent.

The additional four attacks recorded were against media houses, organisations and outlets. The invasions represented nine per cent of the total attacks.

Executive Director, International Press Centre (IPC), Lanre Arogundade, noted that between January and December 2023, 33 attacks, involving 44 journalists, were reported and six invasions of media organisations.

Broadcast medium recorded 22, print medium witnessed six, online medium accounted for 11, while five were not specified.

Thirty-five male journalists and nine female journalists were brutalised during the period under review.

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