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World Press Freedom Day: No journalist incarcerated under Tinubu’s govt – Information minister

The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris has said that no journalist has been incarcerated under the Bola Tinubu administration for practicing responsible…

The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris has said that no journalist has been incarcerated under the Bola Tinubu administration for practicing responsible journalism, stressing that the media is largely free in Nigeria.

He assured that the federal government would continue to protect the interests of journalists and will not compromise press freedom.

The minister said this while answering questions at a press briefing organised by his ministry in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Environment and Ecological Management, and the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO), to commemorate this year’s World Press Freedom Day.

But some pundits believe the idea of “responsible journalism” would be difficult to interpret, and noted that recent happenings point to the fact that some people vested with power under the Tinubu administration were abusing it.

They cited the arrest and prolonged detention of journalist and FirstNews Editor, Segun Olatunji, and the brother to Reportera News owner, Chika Victor Ibezim, which negate the minister’s comment.

Olatunji was held for 14 days over a publication allegedly abusing the Chief of Defence Intelligence, while Ibezim has been held for over eight months after security operatives failed to arrest his brother for a publication linking former Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola to the Presidential Election Petition Court’s judgement.

While explaining his position, the minister of information said spreading falsehood and misinformation is irresponsible journalism, and cannot be equated with genuine expression of press freedom.

He said President Tinubu recognises the importance of responsible media coverage in enlightening, informing, and educating Nigerians and the world, adding that through credible and timely information, everyone can be well-informed, and the media can serve as a valuable tool for fostering transparency and accountability.

Stop targeting journalists with repressive laws, SERAP, NGE tell FG

Meanwhile, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) aand the Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE) have called on the federal government to “stop using repressive and anti-media laws such as the Cybercrimes Act and some codes of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to target, intimidate and harass journalists, critics and media houses.”

In a statement yesterday in Lagos after a conference to mark the World Press Freedom Day 2024, the two organisations urged Nigerian authorities at all levels to “genuinely uphold press freedom, ensure access to information to all Nigerians, obey court judgments, and respect the rule of law.”

Discussants including the President of the NGE, Eze Anaba; Provost, Nigeria Institute of Journalism, Gbenga Adefaye, Deputy Director, SERAP, Kolawole Oluwadare, among others, called for policies that would make life easier for journalists.

The statement issued at the end of the conference, said there were “serious concerns about the escalating crackdown on the right to freedom of expression and media freedom and the flagrant disregard for the rule of law by authorities at all levels of government.”

It noted that the suppression of the press in recent times takes various forms, ranging from extrajudicial to unlawful detentions, disappearances, malicious prosecutions and wrongful use of both legislation and law enforcement.

 “We would continue to speak truth to power and to hold authorities to account for their constitutional and international obligations including on freedom of expression and media freedom.

“Nigeria as a country has a long and unpleasant history of press gagging and clampdown on media freedom, which is evidence of extensive state censorship of media and in some cases, the utter control of state-owned media houses.

“This position has not changed considerably despite almost 25 years of unbroken democratic rule in the Fourth Republic.

“We are concerned that press freedom remains under threat, especially due to economic challenges and other challenges such as navigating digital surveillance, hacking, online harassment and internet shutdowns.

“Freedom of the press is one of the cornerstones of a democratic society. Journalism is not a crime; it is fundamental to a free society.

“Freedom of the press is closely related to the freedom of expression, found in article section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] and the provisions of international human rights treaties such as article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party”, the statement said. 

‘Press freedom vital in addressing environmental crisis’

Also speaking at the press conference in Abuja, the Minister of State for Environment, Dr Iziaq Adekunle Salako said press freedom is indispensable to promote transparency, accountability and social justice critical to communicating the threat posed by climate crisis.

The theme for this year’s event was: “A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of the Environmental Crisis.”  

He said journalists had a critical role to play in driving environmental policy formulation and implementation and also in shaping public perception about the crisis.

The minister, however, noted that environmental degradation exacerbates resource scarcity, heightens social tensions and undermines stability.

“By addressing environmental degradation, which promotes unhealthy competition for scarce resources, we can create not just a more resilient society, we will, in fact, be cutting off a vital driver of the insecurity currently being faced in our country. 

“A press for the planet at this point in time is, therefore, most needed if we are to get the public behind  global and national agenda like net zero, energy transition, biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction, 30 by 30, ending plastic pollution and such other pathways set forth to address the environmental crisis,” he said. 

The minister urged the stakeholders to work together across sectors and borders to harness the power of media in addressing the environmental crisis and advancing sustainable development.

On the environment issue, the Minister of Information Idris, said that in the face of climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and resource depletion crisis, journalists emerge as guardians of truth and champions of accountability.

He said, “They illuminate environmental injustices, expose wrongdoing and amplify the voices of those most affected by environmental degradation. Through their investigative reporting, they hold governments and corporations accountable for their actions and advocate policies that promote sustainability and safeguard our planet.

“This year’s theme resonates deeply with our ministry’s vision and President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s priority areas, which prioritise restoring trust, reorienting national values and creating an enabling environment for the media. It underscores the crucial role of journalism in addressing the environmental crisis.”

Also, the UNESCO representative to Nigeria, Abdourahamane Diallo, who spoke on behalf of the director-general of the organisation, Ms Audrey Azoulay, said a study published by them in May  showed that 70 per cent of environmental reporters had been the victims of attacks, threats or pressure because of their work and 44 environmental journalists have been killed in the last 15 years.

He called for the protection of journalists and media professionals, artists and scientists who are all too often the victims of harassment, violence and censorship.

 

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