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Safety and welfare of journalists at International day to end impunity

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Fr. John Damian in an interview session with Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) at the Orphanage

Journalists are not just the watchdogs of the society; they are also the mouthpieces of every society.

They collect, write, and distribute news with other current and vital information to the public.

Journalists play an important and indispensable role in the society. They guard the policymakers’ actions through well-researched and thought-provoking write-ups.

They are the intermediaries between the public and policymakers. They inform the public about policymakers’ decisions and also relate back to policymakers, the impact of their decisions on the public.

Essentially, they let the policymakers know what the public expects from them. Without journalists, people will be completely cut-off from their leaders.

Types of journalists include, Investigative Journalists: Those who uncover the truth about a particular person, subject, or event.

News Reporters report events, facts and other information to society in an accurate and unbiased manner.

Review Journalists describe or identify a particular subject in order to provide an intelligent and well-informed opinion, based on research and experience.

Column writers are columnists, who interpret events or issues through their personal experiences, thoughts or opinions. Columns are usually published weekly. Feature writers thoroughly explore a topic, an event or important personality by conducting interviews with numerous experts or key people involved.

The important and indispensable roles journalists play, notwithstanding, African Journalists are facing a lot of challenges. Here in Nigeria, journalists are not well paid.

Most of them are not receiving salaries from government, except their pressmen, who report their own side of the stories. Most journalists perform their duties voluntarily. Some of us have paid dearly in order to get our articles published. Journalism in Nigeria is not encouraging at all!

The truth is bitter. It takes courage and risk to defend the truth. Over the years, journalists have been killed for reporting vital news and bringing information to the public. According to the United Nations, “In the past twelve years (2006-2017) close to 1,010 journalists have lost their lives for bringing vital information to the public.”

Unfortunately, the killers of these journalists usually go unpunished due to impunity. Impunity, according to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), damages whole societies by covering up serious human rights abuses, corruption, and crime. Human beings are all equal before the law. Nobody is above the law!

Something remarkable happened on November 2, 2013. Two French journalists, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, were assassinated in Mali.

In commemoration of their death and in an attempt to protect other journalists, November 2nd has been set aside as International Day to End Impunity for crimes against journalists.

In one of such occasion, Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO declares: “It is our responsibility to ensure that crimes against journalists do not go unpunished.

We must see to it that journalists can work in safe conditions, which allow a free and pluralistic press to flourish.” Without this assurance, journalists will not carry out their duty freely and objectively.

Here in Nigeria, we have recorded ugly situations, where security agencies have driven journalists away from recording vital events.

Most of them are beaten up with their cameras destroyed. This is not just a crime against journalists, but also a crime against humanity and a direct attack against the principle of democracy.

As Nigeria prepares for General Elections, the safety and wellbeing of journalists must be taken into consideration.

And every crime against any journalist must be investigated and brought to book, irrespective of those involved. Long live our courageous and divinely inspired journalists!


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