60 cheers for the investigative journalist, Olorunyomi
Under this government there is still crime against journalists
It was pomp and pageantry in Lagos last week as Publisher of Premium Times, Mr. Dapo Olorunyomi, was celebrated at an Arthouse Forum at Freedom Park, Lagos. Media practitioners, activists and literary icons graced the occasion. Among them were Prof. Niyi Osundare, Ayo Obe, Jahman Anikulapo, Lanre Arogundade, Idowu Obasa, among others.
In his keynote address, celebrated poet, Mr. Odia Ofeimun, extolled the rare courage Olorunyomi displays and his doggedness in the discharge of his duties, as an investigative journalist. With the theme ‘Courage Under Fire: A Life of/in Professional Journalism,’ Ofeimun further argued that during military dictatorship, when journalists were detained, killed or molested, Olorunyomi was among the few brave journalists, who stood their ground and carried out their duties with unequaled zest.
According to him, “We have been at the cutting-edge of outstanding journalism. With interest in investigative journalism, he displays the quality of a human rights writer. He has passion for nation building. If for nothing else, the way he even stood during the days of guerrilla journalism also made him outstanding in the industry. According to him, ‘if the military rulers then could take over newspapers, they could not take over the minds of the people.’”
According to Idowu Obasa, Dapo is a courageous and selfless man, adding, “There is a limit to which you can risk your own life so that somebody else may live. He sees good in everybody. Those qualities make him a human being.”
However, the panelists expressed concern over Nigerian’s poor reading culture. Specifically, director, Centre for Investigative Journalism, Lanre Arogundade, observed that issues of public interest don’t usually make headlines, which also contributes to why Nigerians don’t read newspapers. According to him, the Nigerian media should always mirror the society.
“Recently,” Arogundade noted, “Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture said the Nigeria press is enjoying a wonderful life under the current government and I said he couldn’t be right because Premium Times was invaded in January and Dapo Olorunyomi was arrested. By our record, between November last year and this year, about fifteen cases of attacks against journalists and media establishments have taken place. Two journalists have been gunned down, one Bayelsa State and one in Benin City.
“So, under this government there is still crime against journalists and impunity for those crimes. The crimes were neither investigated nor the alleged perpetrators brought to justice. The army, under this government, said they want to monitor social media not for anti-security information but for anti-government information. Then you begin to wonder.
“We are also working on a website in conjunction with Dapo Olorunyomi Centre for Investigative Journalism. We are working on a site that operates like Wikileaks, where if anybody has information on corruption, it can be uploaded and what impressed me was that the website was not done by Dapo Olorunyomi but by a young lady. The element of courage is also being imparted into the younger ones, not by way of having to get arrested or detained, but helping to break the barriers of information denial in our society.
“We should also return to journalism of social relevance. For instance, some communities are budgeted for every year but never get the social amenities that are budgeted for. Such communities are all around us. And the neglect of these communities contributes to the violence we have in the society today.”
While responding, Olorunyomi expressed appreciation for the honour and expressed concern over the challenges facing journalism in Nigeria such as nonpayment of journalists’ salaries and advocated for better welfare packages for journalists.