WPFD 2020: IPC, Editors Want Enabling Environment for Journalists Safety

WPFD 2020: IPC, Editors Want Enabling Environment for Journalists Safety

…Lament Incessant Attacks on Journalists, Restrictions on Press Freedom …Slam Arbitrary Powers by Authorities to Shut Down the Internet, Limit Access to Social Media …Demand Personal Protection Equipment to Journalists on Frontlines of Combating  COVID-19 Pandemic …Abhors Fake News, Misinformation As the global society celebrates the World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) 2020, the International Press

…Lament Incessant Attacks on Journalists, Restrictions on Press Freedom

…Slam Arbitrary Powers by Authorities to Shut Down the Internet, Limit Access to Social Media

…Demand Personal Protection Equipment to Journalists on Frontlines of Combating  COVID-19 Pandemic

…Abhors Fake News, Misinformation

As the global society celebrates the World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) 2020, the International Press Centre (IPC) Lagos, has reminded the Nigerian government and related institutional bodies; the Legislature, the Judiciary, the security agencies and media associations of the critical role they need to play for the survival of press freedom.  Collectively, IPC says they need to ensure an enabling environment and measures for the safety and media independence of Journalism and media practitioners.

WPFD is a day declared by the United Nations General Assembly to raise awareness on the importance of freedom of the press as enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In a statement to commemorate 2020 WPFD, marked every 3rd of May, IPC notes that in line with this year’s theme, ‘Journalism Without Fear or Favour’, the right to freedom of expression and the rights of the press to freely publish, editorialize, critique and inform without fear is a fundamental principle of thriving democracies, and economies of successful governments which must be upheld in Nigeria.

IPC’s Executive Director, Mr. Lanre Arogundade in the statement noted that the government and related institutional stakeholders owe it a duty to respect and uphold press freedom while reaffirming the crucial roles of Journalists and media practitioners, especially as the Coronavirus pandemic ravages the world.

He noted the associated crisis of the pandemic have brought to fore the vital roles of the Journalism profession, as purveyors of information, providing scientific and health education to the anxious on the pandemic, alongside deflating misinformation, which in turn save lives.

Mr. Arogundade also observed that the challenges of the pandemic cut across all borders, hence the Nigerian government must not make media practice difficult especially as the media must continually be able to provide information to the public without fear and intimidation.

He however expressed concern that the IPC have monitored and documented at least 22 press freedom violations in the course of the coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, and enjoins the government to identify the gaps in government and media relations following which it should reinforce its commitment to safety of journalists and other media workers.

This Mr Arogundade explains, can be done by “creating a supportive environment for press freedom in the country; protecting the rights and safety of Journalists and other media professionals while upholding independent and professional Journalism free from political Influence.

“Incessant restrictions and limits to press freedom are evident in the cases of documented attacks including the use of security agents to arrest media workers and perpetrate other press freedom violations and attacks against Journalists.

“These impediments are also reflected in the government’s denial of access to information by the media, the existence of Cybercrime Act and the Anti-terrorism Act which have been actively used to suppress freedom of expression in the country, and other limitations on the rights of freedom of expression”, Mr. Arogundade stated.

“Government and related institutions must ensure the freedom of the press and remove all impediments to a free press. From recent past, we can see that the proposed National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech bill which prescribes a punishment of life imprisonment for any person found liable of committing this offence and a penalty of death by hanging; the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation and other Related Offences bill seek to give the authorities arbitrary powers to shut down the internet and limit access to social media, and make criticizing the government punishable with penalties of up to three years in prison, which clearly do not comply with international human rights standards”, he added.

IPC also paid tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty regionally and globally while saluting the efforts of journalists currently on the frontlines of news reporting on the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr. Arogundade said as they continue to render this invaluable service to humanity, journalists should continue to free themselves of biases, shun misinformation and disinformation and always strive to be factually accurate.

Also demanding special protection for Journalists covering Covid-19 Pandemic, the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), in a statement signed by its president, Mr Mustapha Isah Osikhekha and Social and Publicity Secretary, Mr Ken Ugbechie, congratulates all journalists in the country and across the world, especially those in the frontline covering the Covid-19 pandemic. The Guild urges media owners to provide special protective equipment for these journalists, in order for them not to be infected.

World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference. This special day acts as a reminder to governments, of the need to respect their commitment to Press Freedom. Besides, it also provides an opportunity for media professionals to reflect on, and renew their commitment to the best practices that promote professionalism, ethical reporting and public-spirited advocacy.

Journalists across the world have had to face daunting challenges and dangers in the discharge of their duties with some having to pay the supreme price, while others have been harassed and jailed.

For instance, the Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), a non-governmental organisation, says 55 journalists across 23 countries have died from Covid-19 infection between March and April, 2020.  This is aside the six journalists killed by state actors this year alone across the globe, and about 250 more languishing in different prisons and detention centres. The body of editors therefore, demands the immediate release of all detained journalists in Nigeria and all over the world.

While we commiserate with the families and friends of our departed colleagues, the Guild urges all journalists to abide by the basic protocol of the World Health Organisation (WHO), namely: maintaining physical distancing, washing of hands regularly, wearing of masks, among others. In addition to observing these protocols, the Guild urges journalists to use their various media platforms to enlighten the publics on the need to observe these protocols and any other precautionary measures.

The Guild aligns with the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, in calling on journalists to act professionally as “antidote” to the pandemic of misinformation and fake news, bordering on harmful health advice and conspiracy theories surrounding the Covid-19 crisis.

The NGE insists that, as journalists, we must not at any time abuse the right to press freedom to disseminate false and unverified stories on Covid-19 pandemic or any other subject matter.

The Guild commends the Federal and State governments as well as all relevant health institutions and personnel for their spirited efforts at containing the novel viral pandemic. “We, however, condemn the harassment of journalists in some states by security personnel during the lockdown. Journalists are in the frontline and are partners in the collective effort at combating the pandemic, hence should be accorded all respect and privileges, including protection from harassment and assault in the hands of security agents. Nigeria and indeed the world, needs a free press to effectively report the pandemic and other issues,” it says.

The theme of World Press Freedom Day 2020 is: “Journalism Without Fear or Favour” and the sub-themes are: ”Safety of Women and Men Journalists and Media Workers”; ”Independent and Professional Journalism Free From Political and Commercial Influence;” and ”Gender Equality in All Aspect of the Media”.

The Guild urges all relevant stakeholders, including media professionals, to forge a synergy that would engender the realisation of these lofty themes for the good of society and mankind.

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