From IPC, safety package for journalists
To ensure that Nigerian journalists and media professionals operate in a safe environment, the International Press Centre (IPC) recently launched Nigerian Journalists’ Safety Initiative (NJSI). This project supported by Open Society Foundation, according to the Director of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade has the overall goal of facilitating a free and safe environment for journalists and other media professionals in the country.
The initiative, Arogundade said became important because of the continued violations of journalists’ rights in Nigeria through attacks, arrests, and abductions among other unsafe act against media professionals. He therefore said that it is imperative to ensure higher safety consciousness and engage media and other stakeholders including the enforcement agencies on measures to mitigate incidents of attacks on journalists and the media in Nigeria.
“There is indeed global concern about journalists’ safety which has significantly culminated in the UN Plan Action on the Safety of Journalists.”
He listed activities under the NJSI to include: Monitoring and documentation of attacks on journalists in Nigeria; Running a safety alert and help desk for journalists under threat; Creating better awareness about safety through Online safety manual; Capacity building and other forms of engagement with journalists and media outlets on safety of journalists; Joint plans of action with relevant stakeholders on journalists safety;Publishing of an annual compendium on the state of safety of journalists in Nigeria and Holding of commemorative activities to mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.
Arogundade also said that the initiatives would demand the monitoring of newspapers as well as other media outlets and sources online to track/document incidents and trends of attacks on journalists in Nigeria and Running of a Journalists’ Safety alert online campaign (https://www.facebook.com/Nigerian-Journalists-Safety-Alert-NJSA-505542836300068/?fref=ts), and a help desk and hotline (+2348162206470) for journalists under threat.
To equip journalists with safety measures and know what to do when under threat, he said that there would be periodic tweet-a-thons (tweet conference) and media roundtables to facilitate discourse on safety of journalists; Training for journalists and other media professionals on best practices in safety consciousness in conflict reporting, investigative reporting; crime reporting and Online publishing of practical guides and tips on safety consciousness in journalism.
In his opening remarks, Provost of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, (NIJ), Gbemiga Ogunleye, who Chaired the launch of project, said he was glad to be part of the project because journalism events rate very highly in his scale of priorities, just as
journalism ranks as the most important profession in the world.
“The doctor, the teacher and even the lawyer, need information not only about their professions but also about their lives to make informed decisions. The journalist provides that information.
Doctors can’t report their going on strike; neither can they inform the world when they have successfully separated conjoined twins!
Without information provided by the journalist, the teacher would be in the dark as to when his often-delayed salaries would be paid.
Learned as the lawyers claim to be, nobody would know the outcome of their advocacy in court, without judicial reporters reporting it.”
Ogunleye therefore maintained that if journalists perform these crucial functions in the society, the least they deserve is the protection of all of us.
“Perhaps no other individual living or dead has emphasized the importance of the media and the great role journalists play in any society than the third President of the United States of America, Thomas Jefferson, who stated that the role of the press in checking the excesses of government officials is so important that he would prefer to have “newspapers without government” to “government without newspapers.” With this background, the necessity for the safety and protection of journalists cannot be overemphasized.”
He noted that when journalists are intimidated, attacked or killed not only their media, family or loved ones suffer, the nation, too, suffers a collateral damage, because any acts of repression against the journalist hit at the soul of Freedom of Expression, which includes the right to receive and seek information.
“Many civilized governments have recognized Freedom of Expression as a fundamental human right and one of the distinguishing features of a democratic society. Therefore, journalists, who champion this right, who have been enjoined by Section 22 of the amended 1999 Constitution, to monitor governance and hold government accountable deserve to be protected.
From 1986 when the founding editor-in-Chief of the defunct Newswatch magazine, Dele Giwa, was murdered, many journalists have equally met their untimely deaths while practicing their profession.
“We easily remember Emenche Akogwu of Channels television, murdered in cold blood by Boko Haram terrorists; Bayo Ohu of The Guardian; Abayomi Ogundeji and Godwin Agbroko both of THISDAY; Bagauda Kaltho of The News; Tunde Oladepo of The Guardian and a female journalist, Bolade Fasasi, to mention but a few.”
He however said that the safety of journalists should go beyond the role of government and security agencies, as the employers of journalists also have roles to play, because when journalists are not paid their salaries as at when due, their lives and those of their dependents are at risk.
“Employers of journalists should also ensure that their journalists are sent on hostile environment training before they are deployed to conflict zones.And when they are sent there, they should be insured; provided with bullet proof vests and given adequate funds.
“It would be remiss of me, if I end this remarks without talking about the challenge of the online community. Because of the tremendous impact of the internet on the way we now communicate, online journalists, citizen journalists and bloggers are increasingly being threatened.”
The representative of the Chairman of the Lagos State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Kehinde Ajayi, who is the Treasurer of the Council, enjoined media owners to take safety of the employees very seriously and something of priority. She however implored journalists to be security conscious too in carrying out their day-to-day activities.
In her part, the General Secretary of the Nigeria Guild of Editors, Victoria Ibanga, who said that NGE is concerned about the safety of journalists, noted that journalists must understand that they are vulnerable. The West Africa Representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Peter Nkanga, provided some statistics about attack on the media and media professionals around the world, revealing that over 1200 journalists have been killed worldwide since 1992, besides many have been forced to go on exile.