…We Cannot Build Sustainable Democracy Without a Strong Independent Media…Arogundade Political party leaders have been admonished to always endeavour to speak loudly and condemn the rising cases of infractions and harassment against the Nigerian media, which has been the hallmark of the over six year old administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Apart from the administration’s
…We Cannot Build Sustainable Democracy Without a Strong Independent Media…Arogundade
Political party leaders have been admonished to always endeavour to speak loudly and condemn the rising cases of infractions and harassment against the Nigerian media, which has been the hallmark of the over six year old administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Apart from the administration’s frosty relationship with the media, its security agents have raided 8 media houses between the advent of the administration in 2015 and 2019, according to a report by Amnesty International. Also, the NUJ in a report stated that, “At least 300 violations affecting about 500 journalists, media workers and media houses have been recorded in Nigeria under the regime of President Buhari.”
The administration has also been fingered for pushing laws aimed at strangulating the media in the National Assembly. Also the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC), seemingly acting at the behest of the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, has imposed huge fines on Channels TV, African Independent Television (AIT) and other broadcast stations as part of a strident move to make them whittle down opposition voices and thoughts.
The suspension of the operations of the social media blogging site, Twitter last June was also perceived as a grand design to shut down critical views raged against the government.
Speaking at the Roundtable Discussion on “Setting the Agenda for 2023 General Elections and Stability in Nigeria” held in Abuja, Executive Director, International Press Centre (IPC), Mr Lanre Arogundade, argues that enthroning a virile media is necessary to building sustainable democracy.
“We cannot build a viable democracy without a strong and independent media,” he canvassed.
At no time in the history of our country, Arogundade noted, has the media and its practitioners come under incessant infractions and harassments, revealing that many journalists have been killed and maimed in the process of carrying out their professional assignments.
“We cannot build democracy when the media is in chains and its practitioners face constant harassment. Political leaders must therefore speak out against this attempt to make the media buckle under.”
The IPC boss posited that a pulverized and pummeled media will not serve the interest of democracy.
“If we do not defend the media against raging attacks, freedom of speech will be imperiled. And if that happens, you’ll have no platform to express and channel your opinions, thoughts and worries. Democracy itself will be imperiled.”
Organised by the Nigerian Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies – Political Parties Leadership And Policy Development Centre NIPSS-PPLPDC, as part of the Annual Summit of Political Parties And Stakeholders, the roundtable which was chaired by Prof Dund P. Sha, director of Research, NIPPS, had the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Niger State, Prof Sam Egwu, National Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Dr Leonard Nzenwa and Mr Hamza Fassi-Fihri, project coordinator, European Centre for Electoral Support. Others are Dr Julie Sanda, NDC, Abuja, Fr Atta Barkindo, National Press Centre (NPC) and Idiat Hassan of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD).
The Minister of information, Lai Mohammed and the NBC have been pushing for stringent regulations in the past couple of months to undermine the media seen as the administration’s biggest headache.
At the public hearing on the NBC, NPC bills in the House of Representatives, the Minister called for online broadcasting to be included in the regulation of the NBC and online newspaper to be included in the Nigerian Press Council Act.
The bills have also created a not too chummy relationship between the government and media, as the Nigerian Guild of Editor (NGE), Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and the Nigerian Union of Journalists all kicked against the bills.
As part of its move to arm twist the broadcast media, the NBC in a letter titled the ‘Newspaper Reviews And Current Affairs Programmes: A Need For Caution’, and signed by the Director, Broadcast Monitoring, Francisca Aiyetan, on behalf of the Director-General of the Commission, Balarabe Ilelah directed radio and television stations to not report details of security on their shows.
According to the letter, media houses should exercise caution and “Not ‘glamourising’ the nefarious activities of insurgents, terrorists, kidnappers, and bandits etc.”
Amnesty International has however joined the country’s media advocacy groups to call for press freedom in Nigeria. A publication on its website tagged ‘ Free the Press in Nigeria” said the Nigerian press have had enough. It alleged that Nigerian journalists are often harassed, detained, tortured and killed for doing their job.
”In Nigeria today, journalists are harassed, detained, tortured and killed for doing their job.
”And they’ve had enough.
”A free press makes for a free society. The work journalists do is crucial for everyone in Nigeria – and the law should never silence the truth.
”We have worked with journalists and media workers from across Nigeria to write a manifesto calling on the government to ensure their freedom. Freedom to do their vital work and to serve the people.
”They need your support to make the government listen. Rise up with them and sign up to make Nigeria a free and open society.
”Ensure that media houses are allowed to operate independently and journalists in government-owned media houses enjoy the right to freedom of expression and can carry out their job without fear of reprisals. Furthermore, the government should protect the operation of independent media agencies and their journalistic freedom.
”Train and instruct the police and other security forces to protect journalists and other media professionals and refrain from harassing, intimidating, arbitrarily arresting journalists and raiding media houses.
”Publicly acknowledge the important role of journalists in informing the public and promoting human rights and accountability of leaders in Nigeria,” It wrote on its website.