In commemoration of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, which holds on November 2, journalists in Abuja and Lagos have condemned attacks against journalists and advocated for press freedom.
The journalists and media workers converged at the launching of the #ISupportFreePress campaign organised by Reboot, a social impact organisation advancing social justice, in partnership with PTCIJ. The event held in Abuja on Friday and Lagos on Saturday, and a documentary produced by Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) titled ‘Journalism’s Silent Battle’ was premiered.
According to the press release issued by the PTCIJ, the short documentary is an exposition on the state of press freedom in the country at present. The documentary also highlights victims’ experiences, assessment of efforts by professional bodies and CSO’s to advance press freedom in the country. The documentary was produced as part of the PTCIJ’s Press Freedom Programme and will serve as an advocacy tool to further the cause of a freer press in Nigeria and was premiered at the launch of the #ISupportFreePress campaign.
The publisher of PREMIUM TIMES newspaper, Dapo Olorunyomi, who gave the keynote address at the event, highlighted journalism’s contribution to Nigeria’s independence and struggle against military rulership and stated that journalists cannot afford to relent in the advocacy for complete freedom of the press as the press continues to be important for ensuring transparency and accountability in governance.
Also speaking at the event in Abuja on Friday, a Deputy Director of the Mac Arthur Foundation, Dayo Olaide, expressed bitterness on the increasing instances of brutality against journalists. He called on the government to desist from all attempts to gag the press and restated the commitment of Mac Arthur Foundation to supporting free press.
At the Lagos event on Saturday, renowned journalist and legal practitioner, Richard Akinola, noted that the only profession with a role stated in the constitution is journalism. Mr. Akinola recounted his experience as a journalist covering the judicial beat for Concord newspaper and narrated how his life was threatened at gunpoint in the 80s by the military government. He said further that press freedom has been faced with series of struggles right from the days of Awolowo up till date and then encouraged journalists to keep up the fight against all attempts to muzzle the press. He said, “We cannot at this time give up. We have to keep up the struggle against impunity and against abuse of press freedom.”
Stephanie Adams, Project Officer with the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism while giving an overview of the documentary on Saturday, said that the documentary is part of ongoing efforts alongside other activities like stakeholder dialogues, tracking of attacks on the press with the press attack tracker among other things, to advocate for a truly free press in Nigeria.
Program Manager for Reboot, Chioma Agwuebu, highlighted that press freedom is as fundamental as human rights. She said further that “we believe that journalists who are the conscience of the masses should be able to do their jobs without fear, harassment and intimidation”. When questioned on the likelihood of the campaign petering out after the programme, she said; “Advocacy never ends. For us to have generations of vibrant journalists in Nigeria, we need to do more so as to ensure that they are able to tell their stories without fear and intimidation.”