House of Reps to review laws, practices restricting press freedom

Panelists discussing a topic during the 2024 World Press Freedom Day celebration
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By Emmanuella Anokam

The House of Representatives said on Friday that it would review the laws and practices restricting press freedom and the ability of the media to carry out its constitutional role in the country.

Rep. Akin Rotimi, Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, said this while delivering a keynote address to mark the 2024 World Press Freedom Day.

The 2024 World Press Freedom Day was organised by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Nigeria in conjunction with the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID).

Rotimi said the legislature would prepare the ground for journalists to operate without any hindrance provided they adhere to the tenets of their profession.

“We will enhance good governance practices, transparency and
accountability through media chats, public hearings, town hall meetings, etc., amongst other scheduled legislative actions in Agenda 6,” he said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the International Press Freedom Day, celebrated every May 3, is a day of reflection among media professionals and stakeholders on issues of press freedom and professional ethics.

Rotimi said that the 10th House of Representatives led by Speaker Tajudeen Abbas, had resolved to work with the media to ensure a successful running of the present government.

He said that the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) conferred on the press a critical role as contained in Section 22 regarding obligations of the mass media.

“The role states that the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people.

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“Amongst many other challenges in the course of the discharge of this constitutional mandate, the press faces a disproportionate exposure to harm in the face of the widespread insecurity challenges in the country.

“There are also issues around the dearth of funding but I call on all stakeholders to continue with concerted efforts to address these challenges.

“There is no gainsaying that there are many miles to cover as far as media freedoms in our country is concerned but we have greatly improved from the days of military intervention in our polity (particularly, 1983 – 1998),” Rotimi added.

He urged the media to encourage introspection and self-regulation, and also look at the self-defeating ways that the press delegitimises their own struggle by not upholding ethics, and address them.

Mr Lukas Laible, Deputy Resident Representative, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Nigeria, said the press had become the enabler of Nigerian democracy.

“May 3 of every year is an important day for journalists as freedom of speech is the beacon of the practice.

“Without freedom of speech there won’t be freedom of press, and without freedom of the press, no society can be free.

“Journalists don’t just cover events, they are the people’s transmitter and they show capability in handling issues. They hold political leaders accountable and that is what makes democracy viable.

“Holding political leaders accountable enhances good governance. If the press fails to hold the government accountable, it will deviate from the people,” Laible said.

According to him, the press is so much trusted by the people and as such must make the people know the value of a free world.

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Mrs Franca Aiyetan, Secretary, Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC), who spoke during a panel session, urged journalists to always do their job in a way that would not consume the people.

Aiyetan, while speaking on the theme “Navigating the Intersection of Media Regulations, Press Freedom Advocacy and Ethical Journalism in the Face of Environmental Crises”, noted that NBC was established to have a formidable Nigerian media.

She said that NBC was not established as an attack dog for the government and as such would want the press to always work with it.

“If a detail about a truth will set two tribes against each other, then, there is something wrong with that truth.”

Mrs Busola Ajibola, Deputy Director, Journalism Programme, Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), said during the panel session that over 1,000 attacks have been meted out to journalists in the country.

Ajibola regretted that there had been no accountability for some of the journalists that have been killed in the cause of duty.

“Journalists safety should be sacrosanct. We should declare this as national emergency.

“There should be a policy that does not just obligate that journalists should do their job objectively, we also need a law that protects them.

“So, for this our democracy to work, we should make it a business to protect journalists.”

Another panelist, Mrs Mojirayo Ogunlana, the Executive Director, Digicivic Initiative, said journalists needed laws that should protect them while discharging their job.

“Threats to the lives of journalists should be declared as a state of emergency,” Ogunlana added.

She urged media practitioners to self-regulate themselves to prevent the government from exploiting any vacuum that could give it the opportunity to pounce on them. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)

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Edited by Emmanuel Afonne

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