Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), has tasked the incoming government to initiate deliberate, sustained policies and
programmes to promote freedom of expression, media freedom and safety of journalists.
According to NGE, the call became imperative following conscious efforts in the past few years by some members of the National Assembly – working in collaboration with officials of the executive arm of government, to criminalise journalism practice in Nigeria.
The umbrella body of all the editors Nigeria during the just concluded 2023 World Press Freedom Day explained that journalists are partners in progress for both individuals, government and corporate bodies that should be given room to carry out their job.
The President, Comrade Mustapha Isah and the general secretary, Dr. Iyobosa Uwugiaren, in a statement however promised to engage the incoming government over the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Act and the Broadcast Code of Conduct – with the aim to amend and reform them to conform to the global best practices.
The theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day, which is celebrated every May 3, is “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of
Expression as a Driver for all Other Human Rights”. The theme, according which United Nation, signified the ‘’enabling element of freedom of expression to enjoy and protect all other human rights.’’
The Guild said that pluralistic mass media predicated on freedom of expression, freedom of information and free press is fundamental to any effective and functional democracy all over the world, stating that Nigeria can’t be an exception.
It said it shares the popular notion that freedom of the media is indispensable for the protection of all other human rights.
The editors said instances abound where inhuman treatment, torture, corruption, misuse of power, impunity and nepotism were exposed because of the reports by the media.
It said this was why informing members of the public is often the first and essential step to begin remedying human
rights violations and holding governments accountable.
The statement reads in part: ‘’Disturbing signs of repression, violations of media freedom, and several cautious attempts to criminalise journalism practice, have been observed in the past few years in our country. There have been different forms of control, censorship, and pressure over the content of mass media in Nigeria, especially the broadcast stations, which have hindered their independence and pluralism.
‘’Cases of journalists who are deprived of their inalienable rights due to their work continue to occur over and over again. Cases of harassment, intimidation, violence – and even murder – have been documented in the past eight years – by both local and international pro- media rights groups.’’
The NGE lamented that the case of two Nigerian journalists – Gidado Shuaib and Alfred Olufemi, who were recently convicted by an inferior court in Kwara State, ought not to have been charged, let alone convicted, for publishing an investigative report about a factory.
The conviction of the two journalists has sent disturbing signals to the mass media that pointed out the necessity to urgently reform our laws and ensure journalism is not criminalized in Nigeria in line with the intention of anti-media forces.