WPFD 2021: Forum Demands Amendment of NBC Code, Convening of Media Summit

WPFD 2021: Forum Demands Amendment of NBC Code, Convening of Media Summit

…Wants Professionals to Work in Concert to Resist Crippling Antics Against the Media …Asks Journalists to Remain Courageous, Report Factually, Truthfully Despite Worsening Security, Economic Situation; A stakeholders forum on Journalists Safety and Press Freedom Limitations in Nigeria has called for the amendment of the controversial and draconian Nigeria Broadcasting Code to align it with

…Wants Professionals to Work in Concert to Resist Crippling Antics Against the Media

…Asks Journalists to Remain Courageous, Report Factually, Truthfully Despite Worsening Security, Economic Situation;

A stakeholders forum on Journalists Safety and Press Freedom Limitations in Nigeria has called for the amendment of the controversial and draconian Nigeria Broadcasting Code to align it with the dictates of democratic society that frowns on arbitrariness and requires strict conformity with the principles of fairness and rule of law as against intimidation, threat and economic annihilation.

The forum held in Abuja, the nation’s capital, also wants media professionals and stakeholders to have further engagements with regulatory bodies such as the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the Nigeria Press Council (NPC) on acceptable standards of regulation.

It admonishes media professionals and stakeholders to urgently engage with the leadership of the security agencies and duty bearers in order to agree on mechanisms for the guarantee of the safety of journalists. It also wants them to push for a review of existing regulatory provisions to make commitment to welfare of journalists by employers enforceable

Organised by the International Press Centre (IPC) Nigeria to mark the 2021 World Press Freedom Day (WPFD), the forum calls on media professional bodies/associations, media support groups and other stakeholders to urgently convene a National Media Summit to assess the state of the media and the state of the safety and welfare of journalists with a view to proffering fundamental solutions.

It also asked them to regularly draft joint statements when attacks on journalists occur. “This will inform the public of the vulnerability of the profession,” adding that, ”There should be a lot of noise around issues pertaining to the safety of journalists in the media space.”

With the theme for the 2021 WPFD entitled “Information For Public Good,” the IPC Nigeria convened a Stakeholders’ Forum on Journalists’ Safety and Press Freedom Limitations in Nigeria on Wednesday May 5 in continuation of the organisation’s commitment to deepening engagement with media and relevant stakeholders on solution-driven approaches to the safety of Nigerian Journalists.

The year 2021 WPFD marks the 30th anniversary of the Windhoek, Namibia global media conference on ‘Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Media’ from April 29 to May 3rd, 1991, the declaration that led to the proposal for the adoption of May 3rd as WPFD by the United Nations following a proposal by UNESCO.

IPC Report

Highlights of the event, was the release of the IPC report on the State of Attacks on Journalists in Nigeria in the year 2020. The report presented by IPC’s Safety Alert Desk Officer. Mrs. Melody Lawal, revealed that 48 journalists and 8 media outlets were attacked in 2020 with the perpetrators being majorly security agents, paramilitary forces, political agents and unknown gun men. The report also cited the location and the nature of the attacks observing that many of them occurred during the COVID-19 lockdown and the ENDSARS protests.

Keynote Address

Delivering a keynote address on the theme: ‘Information as a Public Good and the Quest for Press Freedom’, Rev. Fr. George Ehusani, executive director, Lux Terra Leadership Foundation, urged journalists, other media professionals and media organisations in Nigeria to wrestle and seize from the authorities and guard press freedom jealously.

His words: “Freedom of any type is not cheap. It does not come on a platter of gold, as those who hold power often seek to intimidate, coerce unto submission and silence dissenting voices in the society. Thus, press freedom, as indeed the freedom of expression from which it ensues, will hardly ever be simply given in our society or anywhere else”.

Fr. Ehusani, also a former general secretary of Catholic Secretariat, submitted that the “media is a cornerstone of a free society” adding that “the freedom to source information, to process such information, and to disseminate it, is critical for the nurturing and sustenance of a free, democratic and prosperous society”.

In this regard, he said that the biggest challenge to the people’s right to know has been the refusal of authority systems at various levels of the state to allow international covenants on press freedom and freedom of expression to flourish citing as example the existence of laws like The Official Secrets Act 1962 in Nigeria.

Both the report on attacks on journalists and the media in Nigeria in 2020 and the keynote address elicited responses and contributions from the discussants and participants.

The participants observed that:

  • The worsening security and economic situation of the country is a threat to media survival and hinders its ability to serve as societal watchdog;
  • Some journalists tend to pander to their own primordial sentiments and therefore fail to report conflicts ethically and professionally;
  • Media professionals and stakeholders are not sufficiently united in resisting efforts by state agents to undermine the right to press freedom and freedom of expression;
  • Media professionals and stakeholders are not sufficiently united in resisting the use of some existing laws and regulatory frameworks  such as the Cyber Crime Act 2015, the Anti-Terrorism Act, the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, etc, to intimidate and assault the media and prevent it from fulfilling its obligation to monitor governance and hold government accountable to the people;
  • Media professionals and stakeholders are not sufficiently united in highlighting attacks on journalists, demanding justice for victims up to and including adequate compensation, and ensuring the investigation and prosecution of alleged perpetrators;
  • The poor attention to the welfare of journalists in Nigeria, which has degenerated over the decades and has worsened in recent years without concrete efforts at remedying the situation, constitutes fundamental threat to media professionalism and press freedom;
  • The propensity of the government to violate the digital and Internet rights of journalists and citizens could pose major threat to the media as the country intensifies transition from analogue to digital broadcasting.

The participants also recommended that:

  • Journalists should remain courageous and report factually and truthfully despite the worsening security and economic situation;
  • Media professionals and stakeholders must close ranks and put forward a formidable, united front, partnership and solidarity to resist efforts by state agents to undermine the right to press freedom and freedom of expression;
  • Media professionals and stakeholders must resist the use of existing laws and regulatory frameworks and legislations including the Cyber Crime Act 2015, the Anti-Terrorism Act, the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, etc, to intimidate and assault the media and prevent it from fulfilling its obligation to monitor governance and hold government accountable to the people;
  • The media should collectively highlight attacks on journalists, demand justice for victims up to and including adequate compensation, and ensure the investigation and prosecution of alleged perpetrators;
  • Journalists and their professional bodies should prioritise the campaign for insurance policies for media practitioners to guarantee welfare at the workplace.
  • Media stakeholders should regularly draft joint statements when attacks on journalists occur. This will inform the public of the vulnerability of the profession. There should be a lot of noise around issues pertaining to the safety of journalists in the media space.
  • The Nigeria Broadcasting Code needs to be amended so as to align its provisions with the dictates of a democratic order that frown at arbitrariness and require strict conformity with the principles of fairness and rule of law as against intimidation, threat and economic annihilation;
  • Media professionals and stakeholders should have further engagements with regulatory bodies such as Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and Nigeria Press Council (NPC) on acceptable standards of regulation;
  • Media professionals and stakeholders should seek a review of existing regulatory provisions to make commitment to welfare of journalists by employers enforceable;
  • Media professionals and stakeholders should urgently engage with the leadership of the security agencies and duty bearers in order to agree on mechanisms for the guarantee of the safety of journalists;
  • There should be special attention to institution of protective measures for women journalists particularly as it relates to peculiarity of assignments;
  • Media support groups like International Press Centre should continue to prioritise the safety of journalists and capacity building on good journalism safety in the coverage of dangerous assignments;
  • Journalists, Media professional bodies/associations, media support groups and other stakeholders advocate for the development of policies and frameworks that take advantage of the diversity that digital migration allows and avoid the dangers it can present including threat to freedom of expression and media freedom during the transition;
  • Media professional bodies/associations, media support groups and other stakeholders should urgently convene a National Media Summit to assess the state of the media and the state of the safety and welfare of journalists with a view to proffering fundamental solutions.

Earlier, the Executive Director of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, in his welcome remarks, announced the institution of a Foundation for the Safety of Journalists by his organisation to, among others:

  • Improve the documentation of attacks on journalists and the media;
  • Engage in continuous capacity building for journalists on safety in investigative reporting and coverage of dangerous assignments;
  • Offer psycho-social support for attacked or assaulted journalists;
  • Campaign and advocate for enabling environment that promotes safety of journalists and press freedom; and
  • Offer coordination mechanisms on the safety of journalists.

The forum was attended by the President, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr. Chris Isiguzo; President, Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Mr. Mustapha Isah; President, Radio Television Theatre and Arts Workers’ Union (RATTAWU), Mr. Kabir Garba Tsanni; President, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Mrs. Ladi Bala and Programme Manager of Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) Ms. Tosin Alagbe, who represented the Executive Director, Mr Dapo Olorunyomi. They were joined as discussants by Mrs. Vivian Emerenini, who also represented the National President, International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Mrs. Rhoda Tyoden.

The event was also attended by journalists from print, broadcast and online media.

Photo: Cross section of participants at the forum

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