FG’s rejection of World Press Freedom Index – The Sun Nigeria

Over the years, Nigeria has earned a reputation as one of the most dangerous and difficult places for journalists to practice in Africa. In the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, for example, the country ranked 120 out of 180 countries assessed. This is why the international non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders has described the country as one of the most dangerous and difficult countries in Africa for journalists, who are often spied on, arbitrarily arrested, attacked or even killed.

For the federal government, the assessment is unfounded and has no scientific basis. Speaking when executive members of the Nigerian Section of the International Press Institute (IPI) recently visited him in Abuja, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, reportedly said that the press Nigeria was among the freest and most dynamic in the world. .

Apparently referring to a national newspaper, which addresses President Muhammdu Buhari by his military title, Mohammed said: “After all, this must be one of the very few countries in the world where a section of the media can refuse to acknowledge popular sovereignty, or how to describe a situation in which a president who has been duly elected by millions of Nigerians is deliberately stripped of that title, president, and then brazenly dressed in the garb of a dictator by playing on his military title? »

It has become customary for the minister to denigrate any negative report against Nigeria, no matter how true, and then dress the country in a borrowed outfit. It did so when the Corruption Perceptions Index, for example, recently returned a negative perception index on Nigeria. The fact is, there is a grain of truth to the Freedom of the Press Index. Although the situation is better than what we had in the military era, the report accurately reflects the situation in the country. Living in denial will not erase the obvious. Rather than denigrate the report, the government should learn a lesson or two from it.

For example, journalists like Agba Jalingo (publisher of CrossRiverWatch Online), Steven Kefas (freelance journalist and outspoken critic of Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State) and Jones Abiri (publisher of the Bayelsa-based Weekly Source newspaper) suffered humiliations and detention a few years ago for expressing their opinions on certain issues that the powers that be consider offensive.

Additionally, the federal government has attempted to enact laws against the media and to gag the press. Although we now have a Freedom of Information Act, politicians and government officials sometimes use the Cybercrime Act 2015 to deal with journalists. On some occasions, Lai Mohammed had mentioned the need for the country to regulate social networks. Last year, he reportedly urged the National Assembly to grant full regulatory powers to the government over internet broadcasting and all online media. Also last year, the federal government banned the operations of the micro-blogging site, Twitter, in Nigeria. Twitter had deleted a post from President Buhari which he considered offensive. Some media houses have also been sanctioned at one time or another. In 2019, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) sanctioned DAAR Communications Plc, owner of Africa Independent Television (AIT) and radio station Raypower, for what it said were controversial and inciting comments during discussions. on national issues. In 2020, NBC fined Nigeria Info 99.3FM N5 million for interviewing the late former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia. In April 2021, NBC warned Channels TV for interviewing the spokesperson for the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).

Without a doubt, democracy without a free press is antithetical to good governance. The government cannot resort to self-help. The courts are there to adjudicate any case of abuse of press freedom. There are other institutional mechanisms that aggrieved persons can resort to if their rights are violated by the press.

It should be noted that Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) spells out the role of the media in Nigerian democracy. Among other things, the Constitution empowers the media to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people without any charge. This means that the media is a watchdog. Any attempt to gag him is unacceptable and will always boomerang. What the Nigerian press is experiencing goes against the precepts of the constitution. It is also contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

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Further, Section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution states that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference. Although Nigeria is better than some other African countries, comparatively speaking, we should always strive to do better because when the media is silenced, democracy suffers.

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