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‘Why good police-journalists’ relationship is key to enduring peace’

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Ahead of the World Press Freedom Day, slated for May 3, MARGARET MWANTOK caught up with the National Professional Officer (Communication & Information Sector), UNESCO’s Regional office, Macaulay Olushola, who spoke on the organisations’ efforts to ensure free press, peace and security, as well as promoting good ‘police-journalists’ relationship’ across the world.

What is the role of IPI in ensuring compliance to the basis prescriptions of press freedom globally?
International Press Institute (IPI) was formed out of the conviction that free media is central to achieving a better and more peaceful world, upholds the strong believe of press freedom. IPI is dedicated to safeguarding of press freedom, the protection of freedom of opinion and expression, promotion of the free flow of news and information, and improvement of the practices of journalism. As such, the organisation principally facilitates international cooperation towards achieving a world where press freedom strives and safety of journalists is assured.

IPI is contributing through its ‘Media Freedom Mission’. This mission collaborates with local partners to investigate, build dialogue and conducts advocacy to the government and other stakeholders for change and pro-press freedom policies.

It also contributes through ‘Journalist safety and impunity watch’ while engaging with government and other stakeholders. IPI runs deathwatch programs, where deadly attacks on journalists are tracked and various institutions engaged to ensure perpetrators of these crimes are punished according to the provisions of the law.

Celebration of international days are often used to engaged with state and non-state actors to remind each of them of their responsibilities towards safety of journalists and ending impunity of crimes against journalists.

There is also the ‘Media Law Database.’ IPI campaigns for media laws that protect journalism’s watchdog role and meet international standards. The platform was launched in 2015 and focuses on laws related to defamation, official secrets, anti-terrorism, cybercrime, among other to support legal reform and other media’s right report around. This is pursued through advocacy, awareness creation and capacity building.

Also, through ‘Campaigns’ backed by a global network of publishers, editors and journalists, IPI’s campaigns shine an effective international spotlight on abuses, ensuring that those who wish to silence the media cannot hide. IPI keep the pressure on, to protect the rights of members and others exercising their right of freedom of expression

Are there generally accepted parameters for measurement of press freedom in the world? 
The Press Freedom in the World survey provides a good opportunity to evaluate government tolerance to the media as well as the freedom being enjoyed by the press. The existing rankings have both methodological and conceptual limitations. Whatever measure being used, should meet the basic standard of reliability. However, the most important thing is that press freedom enables media to freely operate without interference from the state.

The survey does not rate government performance, but measures whether the country promotes and does not restrict the free flow of information without government intrusion. It should be noted too that non-state actors could also affect press freedom, including insurgents and other armed groups, preventing the press to operate freely.

Organisations like; the Freedom House, Reporters Without Boarders and International Research Exchange board (IREX) have been consistent in publishing media reports on press freedom and media development, but not with a unified indicators, even though, they tend to measure similar variables.

However, UNESCO through the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) launched in 2006 a Media Development Indicators (MDIs) aimed at enabling the assessment of media landscapes at national level. These indicators cover all aspects of media development, and are currently being applied in various countries to identify their specific needs in view of guiding the formulation of media-related policies and improving the targets of media development efforts.

The Media Development Indicators were developed through a broad international consultation launched by the IPDC Intergovernmental Council at its 25th session in 2006. A detailed mapping of the main existing initiatives to define indicators of media development was carried out, in order to analyze their respective methodologies as well as their value and relevance to the priorities of the IPDC.

On the basis of this mapping, a set of indicators aimed at covering all aspects of media development was elaborated and finalised after a two-year consultation process. The Council endorsed the indicators at its subsequent session in 2008 as an “important diagnostic tool for all stakeholders to assess media development in a given country and to thereby determine the areas in which assistance is most needed”.

Since 2008, the MDIs have been widely acknowledged by major actors in the media development field, including UNDP, the World Bank, the Council of Europe, the International Federation of Journalists, International Media Support, the Media Foundation for West Africa and the Doha Centre for Media Freedom.

Does UNESCO have measures on ground that guarantees freedom of press, especially as Nigeria prepares for 2019 elections?
UNESCO is already talking to the Nigeria Police, on a holistic approach to strengthening police-media relationship. The activities are to promote peace, sustainable development and democracy through freedom of expression. It will also systematically promote professional reporting amongst journalists and foster Police-Journalist relationship.

The goal is to train both security forces and the media to uphold the freedom of expression, the rights of citizens, better understanding of the role and function of both entities in democratic societies and establish professional working relationship between the two institutions.

What are your observations about Nigeria’s justice system with reference to freedom of press?
UNESCO is spearheading the United Nations’ Plan of Action on the Safety of journalists and the issue of impunity with partners around the globe. UNESCO has positively noted the Nigeria’s’ commitment to freedom of expression, both on-line and off-line.

However, some concerns remain particularly the recurrent situations of limiting media access, worsened by the recent debate on the promulgation of a law on social media.

Ownership is a major challenge in the industry, in countries where the owners of press are politicians, what do you prescribe to ensure balance? 
The hallmark of the media profession is the principles of fairness, neutrality and balance. Where these fundamentals are compromised, there appears a bias press. Unfortunately, a bias-press is not in any way an asset to a nation.

Therefore, irrespective of the ownership, the sanctity of the profession should be upheld. For this reason, UNESCO will continue to partner with all stakeholders in ensuring that both private and state owned media institutions, operate within the scope of rules and regulations of the profession through capacity building intervention, policy and advocacy; curriculum reviews and massive orientation for in-training and practicing Journalists.

How can the industry address issues of poor remuneration and general lack of welfare for journalists in Africa?
Poor remuneration of salary, no doubt impacts negatively not only on the welfare and wellbeing of the journalists but also on the quality and the content of what they feed the public with. When journalists are deny their salaries, or when their salaries are not being paid for over 18 months or so, this itself is an act of impunity.

The current digital revolution has turned almost everyone to a publisher, however this comes with the challenge of fake news and it’s associated ills. What’s your view?
Fake news is not new. It is as old as a man, but what is new is the proliferation of it. As the evolution of social media continues to change the nature of information gathering and dissemination, all information providers as well as the users, need to rise to the prevailing changes. The evolution has given room for unprofessional journalists to thrive. Everyone with a small device now sees himself/herself as a journalist.

Tell us about WPFD 2018 celebration in Accra. Who are some of the speakers expected at the event?
This is the fourth time that the global celebration of WPFD will take place on African soil. Exactly 27 years after the Windhoek Declaration on free, independent and pluralistic media was adopted and later endorsed by UNESCO’s General Conference. UNESCO and the Government of Ghana are collaborating with other stakeholders to organise the 25th global celebration of World Press Freedom Day in Accra, Ghana from 3 to 4 May 2018 with the theme; “Media, Justice and the Rule of Law”

The two-day event will bring together leading actors from the media, civil society, policy makers, representatives of the judiciary, and academia to discuss latest developments and pressing challenges related to press freedom and the safety of journalists.


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IPDCMacaulay OlusholaUNDP
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