By Patrick Albert
Today, we can say that the media is under threat. Never in our recent history have we been called upon to rise against abuses as we were doing today, particularly against government arbitrariness and the highhandedness of agents of State against journalists.
It is on the premise of these abuses that the National Secretariat of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) called on all the 36 States and the FCT Councils to publicly protest against the impunity meted out against media practitioners.
To demonstrate our resolve on the issue, NUJ has already written to His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, appealing to the Federal Government and all States of the Federation to take effective measures for better protection of journalists and to fully implement the declaration of principles on freedom of expression.
When journalism is without encumbrance, the tendency of arbitrariness by government is not only checked, but it guarantees the processes for good governance. Without equivocation, freedom of the Press is the tunic that drives democracy in its true context as well as gives the citizenry a voice in the management of state affairs.
The United Nations’ 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers”.
From the continent to global spheres, the sanctity of having to enable the freedom of the press is clearly enunciated. In May every year, we celebrate World Press Freedom Day and in November every year too, we mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists as promoted by United Nations.
In September 2010, the African- Union Commission (AUC) and the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), which NUJ is housed, at the African Union Conference Centre in Addis Ababa held a regional conference on the safety of African Journalists. Its resolution was tabled at the African Union Summit in January 2011. A cue to this emanated from the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738 calling for the protection of journalists in armed conflicts situation.
Nigerian journalists take great personal and professional risk to collect, process and disseminate news and information to over 100 million citizens and to the global community.
However, the challenges on the way of journalism practice are becoming unpalatable. One of the absurb cases is that of Mr. Jones Abiri who was detained for two years and only brought before trial after much uproar. Recently too, we have witnessed the demolition of the structure housing the Fresh FM in Ibadan by the Oyo State government. Instances like these are completely antithetical to freedom of the Press and we have to resist them. Our protest today is therefore aimed at warning the authorities against continued act of usurpation of the rights of journalists in their line of duties.
It is the media that drives development in all spheres. Centuries ago, one of the founding fathers of America, Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) who became the third President of the United States (1801-1809) rightly highlighted the significance of the media thus, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the Press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”
As said jointly by Ban Ki-moon, Irina Bokova and Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, “Quality journalism enables citizens to make informed decisions about their society’s development. It also works to expose injustice, corruption, and the abuse of power. For this, journalism must be able to thrive, in an enabling environment in which they can work independently and without undue interference and in conditions of safety.”
Nigerian authorities must allow us the right that we deserve to carry out our duties. As we prepare to go into election year, this right must remain unfettered. On our part as practitioners, we know that our right and freedom is not absolute. This huge responsibility on practitioners is being addressed through training and retraining programmes for our members as well as demanding strict ethical compliance as enunciated by the code of Ethics for journalists.
Cases of abuse, misdemeanor and acts of indiscipline by members are treated professionally through our Ethics and Disciplinary Committee. The Law Court also offers victims of media abuse the privilege to vent their grievance legally rather than using executive lawlessness or quasi judiciary methods, which amounts aberrations. We warn therefore that the Pen is mightier than the sword and that we will not fail to employ the maxim, when we are challenged beyond reasoning.
We thank all our members, comrades and friends for identifying with us on this historic day of National Protest on impunity against journalists.
God bless Nigeria! God bless us all
-Being Press Statement by Elder Patrick Albert, Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Akwa Ibom State Council on the Occasion of National Day of Protest over cases of Impunity Against Nigerian Journalists, Thursday, August 30, 2018.