Journalists, politicians, and other key stakeholders will discuss press freedom in Nigeria at a two-day event that starts today.
The event is organised by the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ). It is in commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day held annually on May 3 worldwide.
The event is to help explore workable solutions to problems plaguing the Nigerian media space.
PTCIJ is organising the event in partnership with the Rule of Law and Anti-corruption (RoLAC) Programme of the British Council.
The World Press Freedom Day seeks to inform the global community that freedom of the press and freedom of expression are fundamental human rights.
According to the organisers, the event will bring key stakeholders together to analyse existing laws that deter the media from holding government accountable.
Some guest speakers at the event include the Senate President, Bukola Saraki; the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; senior lawyer, Femi Falana; a journalism professor at the Lagos State University, Lai Oso, among others.
There will be four panel discussions on different press freedom-related topics.
Follow this page for PREMIUM TIMES’ live updates from the event.
The host of the event, Adenike Aloba, welcomes guests and participants.
She introduces the head of European Union Delegation to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ketil Karlsen, the chief executive of The Cable News, Simon Kolawole, and the publisher of PREMIUM TIMES, Dapo Olorunyomi.
Danladi Plang, the National Programme Manager of the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) Programme, says time is right to emphasis the importance of press freedom in a time when crimes against the media persist.
According to him, RoLAC will continue to support initiatives that is aimed at ensuring the freedom of the press.
The director of Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism and publisher of Premium Times, Dapo Olorunyomi, in his welcome remarks thanked the Ambassador of European Union, Ketil Karlsen. He also appreciated the robust role of all stakeholders towards free press.
He thanked the Senate president, Bukola Saraki, who would be represented by Shehu Sani; and the speaker of the House of Representative, Yakubu Dogara, for honouring their invitation.
Ambassador Karlsen says the World Press Freedom is the quality of democratic process as linked to freedom of expression.
He says there is no democracy without a free press.
Mr Karlsen reaffirmed the EU’s determination to ensure a free press in Nigeria and beyond her borders.
He says the EU will continue to support journalists and writers politically and financially.
The ambassador explained that the Freedom of Information Act has generated many hopes within and outside Nigeria. He hoped for a full implementation of the law.
He further encouraged investigative journalism and journalists as he said it can help fight against corruption in a country and “keeps political leaders on their toes.”
Senate Minority Whip, Philip Aduda, is representing the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
He expressed worry at Nigeria’s recent position in the World Press Freedom ranking which he said is due to continuous detention of journalists in the past one year.
The lawmaker called for a free and pluralistic media.
“It is only then that we can say we are practicing true democracy. It won’t be easy but is not impossible,” he said.
Making reference to the detention of PREMIUM TIMES journalist, Samuel Ogundipe, which he described as unlawful, he said the Senate is taking several steps to ensure a free press in the country.
Mr Ogundipe was arrested and detained in August 2018 for refusing to disclose his source to a story he did. He was also accused of stealing secret documents.
One of such steps, he said, is the live-streaming and live-tweeting of plenary sessions on different social media platforms.
Me Aduda said the Senate is always available to work with the media.
Dupe Atoki says harassment, detention and stigmatisation of journalists are violations of the freedom of expression law.
She says public officials who feel offended by reports should instead take legal action.
According to Ms Atoki, a trend is emerging in Africa where countries are decriminalising press laws.
She says when press freedom is criminalised, “you are not only violating the right of the journalists or editors, you are also violating the right of citizens to receive vital information.”
Ms Atoki made some recommendations:
She said anti-press laws should be repealed.
She urged the ninth assembly to pass laws that decriminalise press freedom.
She called on government agencies to comply with Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and called for intensive training and retraining of journalists.
At 11: 42
A documentary “4th Republic” is playing.
It highlights media and violence. It shows how some journalists encountered harassment and violence during the last election.
The documentary also shows a corp member narrating her ordeal in the line of duty during the last election
Mr Olorunyomi acknowledges the presence of security personnel
Stephanie Adams, a Project Officer at PTCIJ, presents Press Attack Tracker – a PTCIJ innovation.
In her remarks, she said there were 93 attacks on journalists between 2015-2018.
These attacks include the detention of James Abri and Samuel Ogundipe, a photo-journalist shot in Bayelsa, the raid by the Nigerian Army on Daily Trust premises, and the BBC reporter that was slapped by a politician in Lagos, among others.
Ms Stephanie explained that Press Attack Tracker tracks attacks on journalists in Nigeria.
She said it shows the form of attack and gender of the victim. It tracks murder, torture, vandalism, among others.
“It is the first platform of its kind in Nigeria,” she said.
She urged everyone to visit pressattack.ng for more information.
It is time for panel discussion. The moderator invites all the panelists to the stage.
They are, Prof. Lai Oso, Shuaibu Leman, Dr. Tayo Popoola (UNILAG) and Adegoke Adeboye (Paradigm Initiative) as the moderator.
The topic of discussion is “The Nigerian Media, Constraining Laws and Justiciability of Staue”
The discussion is underway.
Prof. Lai Oso is asked to explain the concept of free press.
Mr Oso begins by emphasising the need for media regulation.
He also talks about the economy of the media. He said most media organisations depend on advertising to survive.
He says the incident with the now rested Next newspaper should teach media personnel a lesson.
According to him, there is need for professionalism in the media.
“There is the concept of objectivity. Media depend on principal officers for news. These include National Assembly, Presidential Villa and so on,” he said.
He says we need to look at the totality of the structural form of government and we also need a broader definition of press freedom.
Femi Falana (SAN) joins the panel at 12:21 pm.
Tayo Popoola decries the ‘selective implementation’ of laws in relation to journalism.
He makes reference to the cases of Abubakar Saiq, a journalist who was arrested for criticising the EFCC; Emmanuel Ojo, whom he said was forced into self-exile for publishing a story on money laundering involving the wife of the governor of Ogun State;Mr Musa, arrested for criticising the presidency on social media; and Omoyele Sowore for publishing investigative stories.
He says it is not about making more laws.
“Existing laws are being implemented selectively. Look at the way the government deals with private media organisations.”
Moderator asked the panel the scope of justice for journalists and the interventions a journalist can make to get it.
Falana said it would be important to first put matters in historical perspective. ”Historical facts are important so Nigerians can know where we are coming from.”
He said any public officer who feels offended by a publication should not attack but sue the said journalist/ media organisation in court.
“Even though laws like cyber crimes are created, no public officer should use it to harass the media because he is embarrassed by a publication.
”You cannot have freedom when the larger society is not free,” he said.
Lai Oso said it is possible to struggle against the law, “but you cannot pull down the structures earlier mentioned.
”You cannot force capitalists to take their adverts to newspapers.
“We need to look at how to restore insurgency issues for the press to flourish and such protection stretches beyond journalism.”
He agreed with Mr Falana that Nigerians need to fight for the freedom of journalism in the country.
Mr Falana added that besides Premium Times, The Cable and Sahara Reporters, many editors/media houses do not bother about their journalists that are arrested.
”We need to adopt a multi-dimensional approach. Let’s visit cases of illegal detention.”
Mr Falana said the Army has no right to arrest to civilians and spoke on options available to those arrested
He said the FOI allows a journalist to use a valid document for a story. ”Unless we wake up, the government will continue to be an obstacle,” he said.
He urged journalists to collate all anti-media laws and use it to fight in court
Mr Oso added that money and press freedom do go together. He said corporate institutions are dangerous to the profession of journalism.
The first panel discussion has ended.
The second discussion is underway.
The moderator introduces the panellists. They are Toyin Akinniyi (NGRI), Chioma Chuka (TechHer), Austin Onuoha (ACCR, Owerri) and Oke Epia (Order Paper)
The topic for this session is “Media Practice and the Shrinking Space of Journalistic Freedom.” The moderator, Amadu Sesay, asked about the challenges facing media practice in Nigeria.
Mr Onuoha said he the media space is not shrinking but rather expanding, and urged journalists to make use of the space.
He stressed the need for journalists to read other papers/reports to help develop their own skills in the profession.
“If you do not know what you are reporting, you are will be intimidated in a short time and if you get very professional, you will be respected,” he said.
Mr Epia was asked how new media/blogging affects present-day journalism.
He said not everyone who blogs is a journalist and many bloggers find it difficult as journalists for lack of skills.
Mr Epia said the entire political environment is very constraining and if not addressed quickly, “we will continue to miss the point.”
Chioma Agwuegbo says the media is not ready for the times that we are in.
For her, the media is not ready for online space and bloggers with people with little or no experience.
“Media space is actually expanding if we are ready to deal with it.”
She also lamented benevolent activities targeted at the media. She complained about how the government “keeps shutting down channels of information.”
“The media needs to be confident to speak about it. Freedom comes with a lot of responsibilities and we need to warm up to it,” he said.
2:40 pm – Time for questions and comment
A participant asked about the effect of the commitment of new journalists.
In her response, Ms Agwuegbo said schools these days teach with curriculums that do not matter. “That is why students graduate and find it difficult to fit into the profession and they walk away.”
She stressed the need to rethink what makes a journalist as there is little enthusiasm in the profession.
2:58 pm – The panel discussion has ended.
3:00 pm – Lunch Break!!!
The third session begins
The moderator invites the panellists to the stage.
They are Tope Olaifa (Federal University, Abeokuta), Lanre Arogundade (IPC), Ugo Aniga (Dominical University), Saheed Owonikoko (Adama University of Technology, Yola) and Jide Peter Jimoh (LASU). Philip Olayoku (Kukah Centre, Abuja) is the moderator.
The topic of discussion is “Conflict and the Press: Challenges and Limits in Coverage Pattern.”
Ms Olaifa explained that a journalist has to think of the impact of a conflict-related story before reporting such stories – especially on the victims involved.
According to her, all the characteristics must be put into cognizance.
She said the personality of a journalist also matters.
Mr Arogundade talked about the collapse of governance and values in the society. He said the Nigerian government faces political and religious extremism.
He stressed the need for journalists to be conscious and sensitive in their daily reporting.
“When you report that a man has appointed a Yoruba man as his aide, that can lead to violence,” he said.
Mr Arogundade said conflict reporting is now compounded and if journalists pay more attention to conflict-sensitive journalism, a lot of issues could be addressed.
He said the reporters need to work on headlines so they do not lead to conflict.
Mr Jimoh described the journalistic structure as pitiful. He said reporters sometimes cannot operate or do the required job due to religious factors.
He said some cases lead to poor judgment for training.
He said it is in the self-interest of the media to be conscious of their report, as if there is no peace, the reporters cannot do their jobs.
Mr Jimoh urged journalists to be cautious in the use of language when reporting conflict so as not to escalate or cause trouble.
Like other panellists, Mr Aniga stressed on the need for reporters to be careful when reporting conflict-related issues.
He said a journalists need to be able to ask questions to aid reporting. He added that the best way to get people to talk is by speaking the language they understand.
Mr Aniga also said it is time indigenous languages are used in reporting.