The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has stated that the right to access and spread information through a free press is being threatened, and has asked for media protection.
While the threat to media freedom in Nigeria is real, the impact on the country’s democracy will be exceedingly serious if it is not addressed, according to the professional group of all Nigerian editors.
The NGE made the comments in a statement released on Monday by its President, Mustapha Isah, and General Secretary, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, to commemorate World Press Freedom Day, which is observed on May 3 every year.
According to the editors; “Today is a day to remind governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom.
“It is also a day of reflection among journalists and other media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics.
“We need to remind governments at all levels in Nigeria that a free and independent media that can keep the people informed and hold leaders accountable, is essential for a strong and sustainable democracy, including free and fair elections.
“Without it, Nigerians cannot make informed decisions about how they are governed; and address human rights abuses, corruption and abuse of power.”
The Guild expressed worry that Nigeria’s elected authorities, who are supposed to be trusted champions of press freedom, have made multiple overt attempts to muzzle media voices through proposed legislation that clearly seeks to criminalize journalism practice in the country.
Apart from the regular attacks on journalists carrying out their legitimate editorial assignments by overzealous security agents, the current attempts to criminalize journalism practice in the country through obnoxious proposed laws, the suffocating economic environment and harsh political or economic policies of the federal government have made it nearly impossible for the media sector to carry out its constitutional responsibilities in the past few years, according to the editors.
“There is urgent need to protect the media; because the impact of the suffocating economic and political environment being created by the government will be very dangerous to our democracy.
“A threat to the media is a threat to our democracy.
“Governments at all levels must take the lead in making sure that their actions do not inspire violations of press freedom.
“A democratic society like Nigeria should know that it has a crucial role to play in maintaining media freedom and facilitating access to public information.
“Government should regularly take strong and immediate action against any violations of media freedom this should include speaking out against violence against journalists and authorities’ failure/refusal to identify and prosecute attackers,” the Guild added.
In order to save the media from total collapse, the NGE also called on the federal government to make newsprint, broadcast equipment, and all other media consumables tax-free.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has hailed the courage and determination of the media to keep the society well informed.
A statement by Femi Adesina, media adviser, quoted Buhari as stating this on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day, observed yearly on May 3.
He expressed his gratitude to the Nigerian media and acknowledged their contribution to the country’s democracy.
President Buhari reaffirmed the Nigerian government’s commitment to press freedom, promising to continue protecting journalists’ rights and privileges in the lawful performance of their professional tasks.
He urged Nigerian journalists to focus on the need of upholding the highest professional standards and practices on World Press Freedom Day, especially in the run-up to the upcoming general elections.
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