Lanre Arogundade, Director, International Press Conference has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to be more responsive in protecting Press Freedom.
Making this call during a twitter media chat organized by Media right Agenda and BONews Service, with the theme: ‘21 Years of Democracy in Nigeria and the State of Press Freedom’, Mr. Arogundade revealed that journalists have faced assaults and threats while reporting COVID-19 issues.
Further pointing out that it will be difficult to set developmental agenda in a media space where the press is not free, Arogundade said that the impression gotten is that the Nigerian government cares less about freedom of the press and journalist right.
“Beyond mere statements, the reality is that the Buhari government needs to be more responsive and be seen to be protecting press freedom. Beyond rhetoric, Government’s body language so far suggests that the safety of journalists is NOT a top priority
“The impression you get is that the government cares less about freedom of the press and journalists rights so much so that a state governor announced the ban of two journalists from covering their activities.
“This year, monitoring report conducted by the IPC in relation to journalists’ safety and COVID-19 reporting, shows that Nigeria journalists have faced assaults and threats while reporting COVID-19 issues.
“Between March and May 2020, there have been at least twenty (20) recorded incidents of Press Freedom violations linked to COVID-19 Coverage in Nigeria,” he wrote
Citing cases of press freedom and free expression infraction, Mr Arogundade who gave a list of journalists that were arrested in 2019 pointed out that the safety of Journalists was not a top priority of the Nigerian government.
“Some of these press freedom/free expression infraction involved the detention of PREMIUM TIMES staff; Dapo Olorunyomi, Samuel Ogundipe including that of Jones Abiri, Agba Jalingo and the many others witnessed in the course of the 2019 elections.
“The persons/groups allegedly responsible for the attacks are political thugs, Nigerian police, army officers, government officials, Department of State Security (DSS), etc.
Also reacting to the issue of press freedom in Nigeria, Blessing Oladunjoye, the publisher of BONews said that Buhari’s Government had not taken any step to honour the Nigerian media.
Further encouraging Nigerians who benefit from the work of the media to enforce the right of the media in court, Oladunjoye said, “I don’t think the Buhari Administration has taken any step to honour the media; instead various agencies of the government appear to be in a competition to outdo each other in the stringent and brutal steps that they have taken to frustrate the media
“I would encourage journalists, media houses, Civil society activists & ordinary citizens who benefit from the work of the media to invoke such statues to enforce the rights of the media in court and progressively create a more conducive environment for Press Freedom in Nigeria”.
The Twitter chat was facilitated by Edet Ojo, Executive Director, Media Rights Agenda.
In his opening remarks, Edet Ojo said, “May 29, 2020 was the 21st anniversary of the restoration of democracy in Nigeria, after years of military rule characterized by brutal human rights abuses. This makes the period easily the longest stretch of uninterrupted democratic rule in Nigeria
“While there is no debate about whether democracy is preferable to military rule, 21 years on, it is necessary to take stock to assess how freedom of expression in general and media freedom in particular have fared under supposedly democratic governments, especially the current Administration,” he added.