The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has appealed to the media to always ensure fairness, impartiality, truth and accuracy in reporting the activities of government, in line with the principles of responsible journalism.
The Minister made the appeal in Abuja on Thursday, in a statement to mark the 2018 World Press Freedom Day with the theme “Keeping Power In Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law.”
He said that as an important pillar of democracy, the media must purge itself of all prejudice in order to be able to hold all the levels and arms of government to account.
While commending the media for its role so far in promoting democracy in Nigeria, Alhaji Mohammed said the media should strive to operate above political influence and interference.
He said as the political parties and the nation in general prepare for another electioneering process, the media must ensure the transparency of the entire political process through unbiased and objective reporting.
The Minister expressed concern at how some vested political interests are exploring the media to promote divisions along ethnic and religious lines in the country, saying such unpatriotic conduct will not augur well for the nation’s unity and progress.
He said the government is not unaware of the effort of mischief makers to use the social media, in particular, to undermine the government and promote ethno-religious crisis, especially ahead of the forthcoming general elections.
Alhaji Mohammed, however, restated the commitment of the present administration to press freedom in the country, saying the administration would continue to ensure that journalists are able to carry out their duties unfettered.
In a statement the Nigerian Guild of Editors said: “On this auspicious celebration of the 2018 World Press Freedom Day, we bring warm felicitations to our colleagues and friends across the country and around the world, as they continue to shine the light of truth on humanity.
“It is also an occasion to congratulate all journalists around the world especially those in Nigeria and indeed, Africa, on their resolve to weather the storm to remain afloat, in spite of harsh economic conditions and environment.
It is instructive to note that the World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference. The objective was to raise awareness on the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the Right to Freedom of Expression, enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since the Declaration of Windhoek, the anniversary is celebrated annually worldwide as World Press Freedom Day on May 3.
This year’s event calls for sober reflection as it also affords us the opportunity to assess the state of press freedom, state of the media in our country and empathise and pay tribute to our colleagues who have lost their lives in the course of performing their Constitutional responsibility, as well as those in different prisons all over the world.
Flowing from the theme of this year’s celebration, “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice”, we join all well-meaning organisations such as the United Nations (UN) to call on the government to create an enabling legal environment for press freedom and give special attention to the role of an independent Judiciary in ensuring legal guarantees for press freedom and the prosecution of crimes against journalists.
It is also important to mention that impunity and all forms of oppressions and molestation must stop. More importantly, governments must begin to treat the Media as an ally in development and nation building.
As a matter of fact, the history of Nigeria cannot be written without a mention of the role the Media played in the struggle for independence, enthronement of democracy and promotion and propagation of social justice and human rights. Having acquitted itself thus, its operators and indeed, journalists, do not deserve to be treated with anything less than respect and decorum in the course of performing their Constitutional responsibility.
While we call on governments and the political class to recognise the role of the Media in sustainable development, especially during the forthcoming elections – as a watchdog fostering transparency, accountability and the rule of law, we reiterate the fact that it is the responsibilities of governments and relevant institutions to protect journalists from physical harm and intimidation.
Regrettably and in all fairness, all is not well with the Media industry in Nigeria. The cost of production materials is having a devastating effect on daily operations and the survival of the Media in general. This development, no doubt, has affected payment of monthly emoluments of media workers, thus creating an atmosphere of uncertainty and in effect, reducing the general morale of journalists in the country.
While the media industry has supported all other sectors of the economy, it is left to bear the brunt of everything that has gone wrong with the economy. We are losing revenue and forced to reduce manpower. It is important to call the attention of all on a day like this that a nation whose economy does not and cannot support the economy of its Media industry cannot thumb its chest that its press is free. A broke Media industry has no press freedom and is, therefore, far from being free, for as long as the economic shackles are firmly in place.
On our part as members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, we must collectively play our role in the interest of the generality of Nigerians whose trust we hold by maintaining and observing the highest professional and ethical standards in total compliance with the Code of Ethics of the Journalism profession. We must not allow agents of retrogression to use our platforms to preach hate and extremism under the guise of free speech.
We call on the government and security agencies to reopen and urgently resolve all pending cases of attacks and killings of Journalists and Media workers in the country and bring perpetrators to book, to serve as deterrent to others.
While we condole with the families of our colleagues who paid the supreme price in the course of serving humanity, we celebrate all our colleagues who have continually defied the odds to shine the light into the darkest places, hold government accountable to the people and tell compelling stories about our communities and nation. We salute your courage.