Democracy Day: Buhari promises to respect press freedom, rule of law

Nigerian journalists in an interview session[Photo: The Standard]
Journalists in an interview session[Photo: The Standard]

Despite his government’s repeated disobedience for court orders, President Muhammadu Buhari Friday pledged respect for the rule of law and press freedom.

Mr Buhari also said his administration appreciates the role of the media in Nigeria, despite the media’s imperfect relationship with successive governments.

“I must admit that the relationship between the media and successive governments has not always been perfect,” the Nigerian president said in a televised broadcast to mark the annual Democracy Day.

“But there is no denying the fact that you have been an effective watchdog for the society especially in holding public officers to account. It is sad that in the course of securing our democracy, some of your colleagues have had to pay a heavy price,” he said.

Mr Buhari also said his administration is focused on guaranteeing press freedom and upholding the rule of law.

The Buhari government has been criticised for serially disobeying court orders and violating the rule of law.

PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday reported how the government illegally dismissed dozens of top army officers four years ago and has since repeatedly disobeyed court orders for the reinstatement of some of them.

The federal government, through the State Security Service (SSS) also detained a journalist, Jones Abiri, for over a year without trial. He was eventually charged to court following a local and international outcry. His trial for alleged links to Niger Delta militants is ongoing.

Another journalist and publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, was arrested last year by the State Security Service (SSS) for allegedly inciting the public against the government. Even after he was granted bail by two different judges, the government still held on to him for weeks. He was later released on bail following local and international outcry including by U.S. lawmakers. His trial is ongoing.

However, in his speech, Tuesday, Mr Buhari pledged respect for the rule of the law.

“This administration is focused on ensuring that Nigeria would always be governed by the Rule of Law and I would do my utmost to uphold the constitution and protect the lives and property of all Nigerians,” the president said.

He said the government has initiated a number of policies and programmes designed to promote the legal rights of Nigerians, facilitate the institutionalization of a responsive legal system, and provide support to all constituted bodies in implementing their mandates and improve the system of justice.

“The National Assembly has been an important partner in our quest to sustain our democracy and achieve our development objectives. I therefore greatly thank the leadership and members of the Senate and the House of Representatives for their invaluable support at all times.”

President Buhari also conveyed his “deep appreciation to members of the Press for their doggedness in the struggle for attainment of democracy since the beginning of our nationhood.”

“We will continue to guarantee freedom of the Press as we place high premium on responsible journalism that is devoid of hate speech fake news and other unethical professional conduct,” he said.

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