‘Litigation to secure information is a disservice to the press’
A legal and Communication Consultant, Dr Fassy Adetokunboh Yusuf, has said that the Freedom of Information Act must be made to work as the current situation where litigations are the only option to securing information from federal ministries, departments and agencies makes a mockery of the law and it is a disservice to the press.
Speaking in Lagos during this year’s World Press Freedom, with the theme, Let Journalism Thrive, Yusuf, who spoke on, freedom of the press and social responsibility, also stated that the non-domestication or domiciling of the law by the various states of the country has made the practice of journalism herculean and hazardous, and indeed, less thriving.
“Journalism must be made to thrive since according to the President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari (2015), “the press influences millions of people daily . . . there is no society or government agency that can exist or function without the media”.
For him, freedom comes with responsibility, as there is no absolute freedom. He therefore said that the press that is expected to be the watchdog of the society, to hold government accountable to the people, to safeguard the interests of the citizenry, to uphold objectivity and indeed, good ethical conduct in the discharge of its time honoured responsibility cannot afford to be partial, biased and parochial.
Commenting on the relevance of the day, Yusuf said that the World Press Freedom Day provides an opportunity to underscore the significance of the independence of the press and to salute the courage and patriotism of members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm who have lost their lives, maimed or incarcerated in the line of duty.
He maintained that for the press to effectively and efficiently perform its role as the Fourth Estate of the Realm, its freedom must be unfettered, guaranteed and government expected to make no laws that will abridge its freedom.
“In every democracy, freedom of the press is an essential ingredient. Indeed, democracy flourishes more with freedom of the press while freedom of the press has the tendency of promoting the tenets of democracy. There is therefore, a symbiotic relationship between freedom of the press and democracy. The Nigerian press has contributed to the sustenance of the unbroken sixteen years of the fourth Republic.
For better reporting and independent journalism in the digital age, he felt, it is expedient for practitioners to adhere to the present Code of Ethics for Nigerian Journalists, the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, the provisions in the Nigerian Press Council Act, the Constitution of the country, and other extant laws and guidelines relating to the practice of the profession.
Also, at another forum meant to celebrate the World Press Freedom Day by the Public Affairs Section, US Consulate, Lagos, the Director, International Press Centre, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, who spoke on, Assessing the state of compliance with the Nigerian media code of election coverage in the reportage of 2015 general elections, noted that any assessment of media performance in the last elections, needs to reckon with the fact that the Nigerian as grown wider, incorporating not just the conventional media – radio, TV, Newspapers, online – but the various forms of social media as well.
In his presentation, he used the monitoring of the media coverage of the 2015 election carried out by the International Press Centre (IPC) and the Nigeria Press Council (NPC) as his assessment tool.
After rolling out the many indices that the monitoring efforts revealed, he said that there were significant areas of non-compliance with the code while there were some notable areas of compliance.
“There are major challenges with the implementation and enforcement of the code. The monitoring and the enforcement mechanisms were non-existent and should now be urgently put in place. We need not wait another four years more so as there will be a number of governorship elections before the next general elections.
“The Nigerian media code of election coverage is relatively new while the dissemination did not meet expectation prior to the elections. Many journalists did not get the hard copies while most did not access it online. This should also be food for thought in looking ahead.
“Media organizations must realize that whatever the circumstances, credibility and public trust are enhanced when there is strict adherence to professional ethics and guidelines.
As I said before, those who do so will reap the benefit profit sooner than later while those who act contrarily may smile to the banks today but cry out of it tomorrow when the sword of libel dangles,” Arogundade stated.