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WPFD: Safer-Media Initiative Calls for Legislative Action for the Protection of Journalists

- Says Press Freedom in Nigeria worsens under Buhari

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Safer-Media Initiative has called on Nigeria’s legislative arm of government to take definite actions to protect journalists in Nigeria.

In a statement on Wednesday in Abuja, the Executive Director/CEO of Safer Media Initiative, Peter Iorter, said that as the world celebrates World Press Freedom Day, it is important to remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression and to emphasize the importance of press freedom in a democracy.

Iorter said in these critical times, when the country’s democracy faces many challenges, there is an urgent need for the legislature to strengthen laws that will provide and sustain a definite measure of defense for journalists doing their professional and constitutional duty. By doing so, journalists will be able to perform their role unhindered, ensuring that citizens have access to diverse and trustworthy news that can help them make informed choices and actively participate in the democratic process.

He emphasized that World Press Freedom Day is an opportunity to recall that democracy is in grave danger if freedom of expression and media freedom are threatened. He called attention to a worrying pattern of rising threats to media freedom in Nigeria over the past eight years of Buhari’s administration. Such trends, he said, are unacceptable and, if they are allowed to continue, constitute a threat to the nation’s emerging democracy.

According to Iorter, Nigeria’s press freedom ranking dropped significantly between 2016 and 2022 compared to the ranking between 2012 and 2015. Also between 2017 and 2022, at least ten journalists were killed in Nigeria. As the country is ranked five times, between 2015 and 2022, among countries where killers of journalists circumvent justice.

He said a recent report by Safer Media Initiative shows at least 4 in 10 (42%) journalists were harassed, attacked, or unlawfully detained more than once between 2017 and 2022.

Another cause for concern, Iorter said is the efforts by the government to shrink the media space and freedom of expression through its agencies such as the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), urging the National Assembly to urgently begin a process of amending the legal framework for the operations of the NBC; saying, it is regrettable that the NBC, as presently structured, is used by the executive to stifle free speech.

He reiterated that the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day is significant because it serves as a reminder of the critical function of the media in a democracy. It emphasizes the necessity of safeguarding journalists and their sources from censorship, intimidation, and violence.

More importantly, it acts as a call to action for governments and groups to defend freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The theme for World Press Freedom Day 2023, is “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of Expression as a Driver for all other human rights.” The theme draws attention to the crucial role of press freedom, independent and diverse media, and freedom of expression in upholding all human rights.

This year’s celebration marks the 30th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day and coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Vienna Conference and its Declaration and Programme of Action on Human Rights, as well as the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

World Press Freedom Day was first celebrated in 1993, following the recommendation of the General Conference of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

The date May 3 was chosen to commemorate the Windhoek Declaration, a statement of press freedom principles put forth by African journalists in Windhoek, Namibia, in 1991. Since then, World Press Freedom Day has been celebrated annually on May 3.

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