The Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara has said that the Freedom of the Press is not negotiable, as it is fundamental to good governance and democracy.
Mr. Dogara said this at the opening ceremony of a conference on world press freedom day organised by the Premium Times Centre for Investigation Journalism (PTCIJ).
According to him, a free press is vital to the survival of democracy and fundamental to the sustenance of the principles of the rule of law.
He said, “I congratulate all Media practitioners the world over on this year’s celebration,” Dogara said.
“It won’t be out of place to dedicate today’s event to all those journalists who paid the supreme price or those that are being incarcerated for bringing information to the public or upholding the right of the people to know the truth about the way they are being governed.
“In 2017, the International Press Centre, IPC reported that two Nigerian Journalists were killed and documented fourteen assault cases involving journalists and media houses.
“The committee for the protection of journalists (CPJ) declared the year 2018 as the deadliest for journalists in the last three years.
“The theme of this year’s celebration is most apt as Nigeria now faces one of her worst periods of insecurity manifesting in violent extremism, rampant cases of kidnapping, cattle rustling, herder/ farmers violent conflicts and murderous campaign of bandits across Nigeria.
“This is a major challenge to media practitioners. The media must constantly balance the need to inform the citizens with their equally weighty responsibility to ensure that their reports do not contribute to exercabating an already dangerously tense and fragile situation.”
Dogara, citing section 22 oof the Nigerian Constitution said it is the duty of the media to monitor and hold the government to accountability as it carries out its assigned responsibilities.
He regretted nevertheless that some provisions in the same constitution has allowed “some tyrants” in the government to suppress press freedom during periods of emergency, insurgency and civil strife.
Mr. Dogara went on to describe the relationship between the President Muhammadu Buhari administration and the media as “banal.”
He opined that attacks on the freedom of press are not good for good governance and democracy.
“We are all witnesses to recurring examples of coercion, threats, brutality, arrests, incarceration and media shut down perpetrated by the state against journalists and their establishments,” he said.
“Instances of these draconian measures adopted by State actors abound during the recent elections held in parts of the country and the General Elections.
“These attacks on the independence of the Press greatly inhibit effective media practice and does not augur well for good governance and democracy.
“Governments efforts must never be to make our citizens docile and obedient, that’s what repressive regimes do best, but our goal must be to keep our citizens active and informed with the skills to questions the questions and question the answers if they so wish.
“In conclusion permit me to say that press freedom is not negotiable and direct violence to journalists is not the only threat. Those who attack the media as fake news or enemy of the people in order to erode the credibility of the press are as dangerous as those perpetrating violence against journalists.
“As legislators we will always stand up and speak out for pressmen and media outfits that uphold the ethics of fairness, objectivity, truthfulness and patriotism in their practice.
“It is hoped that the 9th Assembly dedicate itself to enacting enabling laws that will prioritize the protection and welfare of journalists to enable them do the work of democracy,” Dogara said.