In commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day, Nigerian state governors and institutions Wednesday pledged commitment to a conducive environment in the country for journalists to play their role as the fourth estate of the realm.
In Kaduna, Governor Nasir El-Rufai said he is conscious of the imperative role of the media in nation-building and holding the state accountable.
At an event to mark the Day organised by the state chapter of Nigeria Union of Journalists, Mr El-Rufai who was represented by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Samuel Aruwan, said journalism must be rescued from agents of hate, religious and ethnic extremism.
Describing himself as a strong advocate of freedom of the press and expression, he said his government will never persecute journalists from discharging their duties.
“I’m not an advocate of any sort of clampdown on the media, but I’m a strong advocate of freedom of press and expression.
“Kaduna State Government has never and will never persecute journalist from discharging their constitutional role by way of holding government accountable to the betterment of the citizenry,” he said.
He, however, vowed that his administration “will not allow conflict entrepreneurs and their agents masquerading as journalists to instigate hate and tension on false fabricated reports that will plunge the state into chaos,” he said.
Ahmed Maiyaki, the former spokesperson to former governor of the state, Ramalan Yero, addressed the issue of press freedom, especially in Kaduna State.
He said “several journalists have been intimidated, arrested and jailed at various times by security agencies and some state governors including some of our colleagues here in Kaduna State within the last few years under El-Rufai’s watch.”
He also highlighted the 2017 World Press Freedom ranking compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in which he said “Nigeria, again, recorded a decline in the international press freedom index, with six percent regression between 2016 and 2017
“Nigeria came down from 111 in 2016 to 122 in 2017, out of 180 countries graded on the press freedom index. This indeed is worrisome,” he said.
Based on the Press Freedom Rating, he said there is a growing sense that Nigeria is losing its democratic temperament.
In Kano, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje asked journalists to be mindful of the law and to uphold the ethics of the journalism profession in order to further deepen democracy and good governance in the interest of the nation’s development.
In a statement on the occasion of the day, the governor said as partners in progress, journalists should continue to dedicate themselves to the tenets of their profession by being factual in order to sustain the credibility of the media in Nigeria.
The Niger state governor, Abubakar Sani-Bello, acknowledged the press’ efforts and contributions to national development before and after independence as well as during the military era.
He said the growth and development of democracy in Nigeria is dependent on the level of freedom of the press.
However, he urged the media to exercise its duties with every sense of social responsibility and set agenda for the political and economic reconstruction of the country.
He added that his administration will continue to accept fair, reasonable and unbiased constructive criticism from members of the Press.
“You can criticize my government, I have no issue with that, but in doing so such criticism must be constructive, fair and balanced in the overall interest of the people as well as progress and development of the state,” he said.
He guaranteed his administration’s readiness to improve on the welfare of journalists and to provide an enabling environment for journalists in the state to function effectively and efficiently.
Paradigm Initiative (PI), a social enterprise involved in digital rights advocacy, made a call for end to the series of attacks on the media in Africa as this years’ Press Freedom celebration came at a time of increased press attacks across Africa.
Tope Ogundipe, PI’s Director of Programs, she said the increased wave of attacks on the Press in Africa was one of the key developments noted in PI’s Digital Rights in Africa 2017 Report.
“Whereas in 2016 most of the arrests for comments made online were of ordinary citizens, in 2017 the focus of arrests and prosecutions for comments made online shifted to journalists. Journalists should not be targeted for doing their legitimate jobs.
“The years 2017 and 2018 have witnessed a record number of journalist arrests in Nigeria. Media houses were also broken into as overzealous security officers did the bidding of their paymasters. Journalists and the media played a crucial role in the establishment of democracy in Nigeria, so we cannot sit back and watch their right trampled upon,” she said
Also speaking on the subject of press attacks, Adeboye Adegoke, PI’s Program Manager for Digital Rights, said the Cybercrimes Act of 2015 has emerged as the principal tool in the hands of the rich and powerful in persecuting Nigerian citizens and Journalists for comments made online.
“We have initiated lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of sections 24 and 38 of the Cybercrime Act, which has been the legal basis for much of the abuse of press freedom we have seen in Nigeria
“As we celebrate World Press Day 2018 on May 3 2018, let’s all join hands together to ensure that Press Freedom is respected in Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world,” he said.
The Africa Media Development Foundation (AMDF) Coordinator, Sekyen Dadik, also urged the authorities to support in creating a favorable atmosphere for journalists to thrive in their profession without fear and intimidation.
“AMDF strongly commends the tenacity of African Journalists who have against all odds of intimidation, poor or no remuneration remained watch dogs of the society.This steadfastness must be recognized and upheld,” she said.
This year’s world Press Freedom global theme is ‘Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law’.