WPFD 2022: MRA, IPC Demand Conducive Environment for Journalism Practice, Safeguard of Media Freedom

WPFD 2022: MRA, IPC Demand Conducive Environment for Journalism Practice, Safeguard of Media Freedom

…Say Rising Spate of Uninvestigated Attacks Against Journalists Undermines Media Protection …Call for Stakeholders Collaboration to Safeguard Media Freedom …Ask Nigerian Government to Uphold Rights to Freedom of Expression …Reveal Over 100 Journalists, Other Media Professionals Have Been Victims of Harassment, Threats, Suspected Murder Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has called on governments at all levels

…Say Rising Spate of Uninvestigated Attacks Against Journalists Undermines Media Protection

…Call for Stakeholders Collaboration to Safeguard Media Freedom

…Ask Nigerian Government to Uphold Rights to Freedom of Expression

…Reveal Over 100 Journalists, Other Media Professionals Have Been Victims of Harassment, Threats, Suspected Murder

Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has called on governments at all levels in Nigeria to take urgent measures to create a safe and conducive environment for journalism practice in Nigeria, both online and offline, noting that the rising spate of uninvestigated attacks against journalists in recent years undermines the Government’s obligation to protect media practitioners.

This is coming just as the International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos has reiterated urgent calls for stakeholders collaboration to safeguard press freedom.

In a statement to commemorate this year’s World Press Freedom Day (WPFD), MRA urged the Federal Government to make a commitment to protect journalists and other media workers from various forms of attacks, including online, saying such a move would signal its appreciation of the importance of the theme of this year’s WPFD, which is “Journalism Under Digital Siege”.

MRA said in the statement signed by its Communication’s Officer, Mr. Idowu Adewale, that “recent advancements in surveillance technologies all over the world and Nigeria’s acquisition of such technologies in recent years is having a significant negative impact on media freedom and freedom of expression more broadly, the safety of journalists, access to information and the right to privacy, thereby putting all of these rights at risk. It is also putting journalists under siege.”

Mr. Adewale argued: “human safety and security as well as respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms should underpin any national cybersecurity effort. There can be no justification for the indiscriminate interception, monitoring or surveillance of people’s private communication, which leaves innocent citizens fearful for their safety and of their government.”

According to him, where the Government or its security agencies plan to engage in targeted communication surveillance, such action may only be carried out within the framework of a law that conforms with international human rights law and standards, upon a specific and reasonable suspicion that a serious crime has been or is being carried out and after the prior authorisation of an independent judicial authority has been obtained.

Mr. Adewale called on the Government to put an end to practice by security agencies and regulatory bodies of interfering in different ways with the rights of individuals to seek, receive and impart information or to communicate with others through any means of communication and digital technologies, such as by blocking or otherwise intentionally disrupting access, saying actions constitute a violation of international human rights law and standards.

He said besides refraining from engaging in any such intentional disruption of access to the Internet and other digital technologies, the Government’s international human rights commitments also impose an obligation on it not to condone any such action by other actors, including private companies and criminal groups.

Speaking in the same vein, the International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos-Nigeria on the occasion of this Year’s World Press Freedom Day (WPFD), 2022 joins the global community to raise concerns about press freedom violations.

IPC prompts the Nigerian government to respect its commitment and uphold the right to freedom of expression as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Peoples and Human Rights.

The World Press Freedom Day is a day to reflect on issues of press freedom and professional ethics as well as to support journalists and other media professionals, who are often the targets of attacks on press freedom.

It is worrisome that IPC has monitored and documented not less than 40 incidents of press freedom attacks on 49 journalists in year 2021 alone, while since 2020 the organisation has identified over 100 journalists and other media professionals who have been victims of surveillance, spying, harassment, threats, violence, assaults, battery, unlawful arrests, jailing, robberies, kidnappings, and suspected murder.

IPC further notes that these acts were committed by State Governments and their agencies, Department of State Services (DSS), Rapid Response Squad (RRS), Police Officers, State Police Commands, Nigeria Police Intelligence Response Team, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Unknown gunmen, Hoodlums, Private Organisations, etc.

Taking into account the theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day: “Journalism Under Digital Siege,” the Executive Director of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, remarked that the prevalence of press freedom infractions in the Country indicates that there is now an urgent need for media stakeholders to jointly identify and develop sustainable solutions including raising the standard of safety of journalists and media freedom in Nigeria.

“The reality is there is little or no justice or even compensation for the victims, while the perpetrators go scot-free, we must therefore all work together to fortify the safety of journalists and media professionals,” he said.

Mr. Arogundade said in order to promote the conversation, IPC will on May 11 launch two documentaries which will highlight IPC’s interviews with journalists and other media professionals who were victims of brutal press freedom violations during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic induced lockdown and the #ENDSARS protests”.

According to him, the public presentation of the documentaries will be followed by a round table discussion on protection for journalists during national crises or emergencies. Panellists and participants are expected to include media practitioners, media organisations, media professional bodies and associations, press freedom organisations, media and digital rights organisations, security bodies, government representatives, lawyers, judiciary representatives, human rights activists and human rights organisations.

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