Press Freedom Day: Buhari Wants Journalists to Abide by Ethical Conduct, Eschew Primordial Sentiments

Press Freedom Day: Buhari Wants Journalists to Abide by Ethical Conduct, Eschew Primordial Sentiments

…As Guild, IPC Calls for Protection of Journalists Against Attacks President Muhammadu Buhari has saluted Nigerian journalists as they join their professional colleagues across the world to mark World Press Freedom Day (WPFD). President Buhari, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, in Abuja on Thursday, urged the

As Guild, IPC Calls for Protection of Journalists Against Attacks

President Muhammadu Buhari has saluted Nigerian journalists as they join their professional colleagues across the world to mark World Press Freedom Day (WPFD).

President Buhari, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, in Abuja on Thursday, urged the journalists to use the day to appraise and recommit themselves to the ethics that guide their noble profession.

He said: “Without adherence to ethics, professions turn awry, and become part of national malaise, rather than solutions.”

“That is why journalists must constantly recommit to the canons of fairness, accuracy, objectivity, balance, and other ideals that guide their profession.’’

While celebrating the World Press Freedom Day, President Buhari urged the journalists to rededicate themselves to the role of being watchdogs of society.

He, however, enjoined them to be “mindful of the cohesion and equilibrium of that same society.

There are always those who want to use the media to emphasise our fault lines as a people, dwell on primordial sentiments, and keep the country perpetually on the same spot.

He cautioned: “Be wary of such.”

The President noted that the theme of this year’s celebration, Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation, was quite germane for Nigeria, having recently concluded its general elections.

He urged the media to reflect on the deleterious effect of fake news, misinformation and disinformation before, during and after the polls.

President Buhari affirmed that government would continue to ensure that the media was not muzzled in any way, since democracy and freedom of expression were kindred spirits.

He said: “Our administration is committed to the highest levels of transparency, and we will guarantee press freedom at all times.”

“We only require that the freedom be used responsibly, and for lofty ideals of national unity and development,” the President asserted.”

The World Press Freedom Day is observed every May 3 to celebrate fundamental principles of press freedom, evaluate press freedom round the world, defend media from attacks on their independence, and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the practice of their profession.

Also the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has called for more protection for journalists before, during and after elections. This was the highpoint of a statement released by the Guild on the occasion of the 2019 World Press Freedom Day.

The Guild in a statement signed by its President, Mrs Funke Egbemode and General Secretary, Ms Victoria Ibanga, said this year’s World Press Freedom Day with the theme: ‘Role of Media in Elections and Democracy’ provides an opportunity for stakeholders in the global democracy enterprise to re-examine the contributions of journalists to the propagation and sustenance of democracy.

The Guild specifically called on relevant authorities in Nigeria to begin to see “journalists as partners in development and voice of the voiceless rather than treat them as meddlesome interlopers and enemies of the people.”

Citing growing mortality among journalists including denial of their fundamental right to life in the course of discharging their duties, the Guild appealed to Nigerian security agencies to ensure the safety of all journalists especially during elections. The Guild said the media has the capacity to support peace and reconciliation processes among political actors hence should be allowed to play its constitutional role.

As is the tradition, this year’s World Press Freedom Day also examines the safety of journalists. According to the Guild, ensuring the safety of journalists is the primary way by which societies can foster the independence and freedom of the press, as crucial for democracy. This, the Guild said, will also ensure public access to information.

The Guild regretted that there is a clear and present threat to achieving that goal.  The Editors’ body referenced global statistics to support its crusade for the protection of journalists.

The International Federation of Journalists noted that in 2018 alone, at least 94 journalists were killed across the world. The 2018 figure indicates an increase from the previous year which recorded 82 fatalities.

The Guild echoed the concern of the United Nations which had earlier noted that journalists were undergoing too much stress which is ultimately undermining their ability to report accurately without fear of attack.

The UN had said: “Today, the contribution of free, pluralistic, independent and safe journalism to democracy is under unprecedented stress. Also, election outcomes and their aftermath are critically affected by political discourse and communications, including the role of the media in relation to the polling process.”

The Guild condemned modern day leaders who do nothing except denounce the media as biased to the extent that factual information reported by the Press is now termed ‘fake news’ to the detriment of the journalism profession.

The International Press Centre (IPC) Lagos has also joined in calling attention to the need for deliberate ways to combat the rising tide of fake news and disinformation as well as growing threats to journalists in reporting democratic development and elections.

Global discourse for Year 2019 WPFD, which is the 26th edition of the event taking place at the African Union Headquarters, Addis Ababa, is with the theme; “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation”

In a statement, IPC Director, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, noted that the role the media play in reporting the actions and activities of stakeholders in the electoral process remains imperative as journalists remain obligated in providing factual and truthful information to citizens.

“In the face of emerging realities, media channels especially online platforms have become susceptible channels for the dissemination of disinformation in reporting elections as witnessed in the building up to the 2019 general elections, which is a dangerous trend that  ethical and professional journalistic report must address,” Arogundade said.

“Respect for truth and for the right of the public to truth is the first duty of journalists, and this must be upheld at all times, especially when it comes to reporting democratic governance”, he added.

Arogundade however lamented that journalists have also become targets of repression and assault of anti-democracy forces, which tramps on the rights of journalists.

“The International Press Centre (IPC) through its 2019 Media and Elections situation room found it worrisome that there was an increase in the attacks on journalists during the Governorship and State Assembly elections in disregard to the rights of journalists to monitor and report election activities as guaranteed by various regulatory frameworks such as the Electoral Act, the Nigeria Broadcasting Code and the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage”.

“These acts are inimical to an enabling operational environment for journalism”, he added, while calling on institutional stakeholders to use the 2019 WPFD as a spring board to addressing all infractions inimical to freedom of expression and free media.

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