As the World commemorates the Press Freedom Day, the Nigerian National Committee of the International Press Institute (IPI) yesterday urged the incoming administration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to commit to creating a better operating environment for journalists and media organisations.
President of IPI Nigeria, Musikilu Mojeed and Chair, IPI Nigeria Advocacy Committee, Tobi Soniyi, in a statement, noted that in the past few years, cases of media and journalists’ harassment had been rampant.
These violations, it stated, include arrests, physical attacks, denial of access, threats, equipment damage, equipment seizure, lawsuits and high-handedness and arbitrariness by some agencies of government.
The institute while crying out that “Nigerian journalists are in perpetual danger” urged the incoming government “To embrace a new attitude by deliberately improving the operational environment of journalists and the media.”
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It said, “There are still a number of oppressive and media-unfriendly laws, such as those on criminal defamation and cybercrime that need to be amended. The government should also begin widespread sensitisation of its security operatives, who must understand that journalists and the media are key elements of democracy.
“While state actors, especially state governors, must end intimidation and harassment of journalists, Nigerian politicians and political parties should also desist from the use of online trolls to attack journalists and media organisations for performing their constitutional duties of upholding the people’s right to know and holding governments, individuals and organisations accountable.
“The incoming administration, to be led by Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), must also take deliberate steps to help the sustainability of media outlets while respecting press freedom and freedom of speech.
“IPI Nigeria is also concerned that as laudable as the passage of the Freedom of Information Act is, journalists have not been able to fully utilise the law to hold public officials accountable because government officials continue to play pranks to deny them the information they seek.”
It explained that while Section 2 (1) of the Act states that ‘A public institution shall ensure that it records and keeps information about all its activities, operations and business’, the provision is not being complied with.
“Specifically, sub-sections 2-4 mandate public institutions to publish public records in different accessible forms for information seekers. This is also not being complied with.
“Sections 22 and 39 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution provide for Freedom of Expression and the Press,” it added.
IPI Nigeria however demanded that the incoming government should commit to the total implementation of the FOI Act.
“This is because the free flow of information is essential to the survival and growth of democracy. Misinformation and disinformation thrive more robustly when authorities withhold information that ordinarily should be made available to the public,” the institute added.