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World Press Freedom Day: Africa, Nigeria in perspective

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“No democracy is complete without access to transparent and reliable information. It is the cornerstone for building fair and impartial institutions, holding leaders accountable and speaking truth to power,” António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General said.

World Press Freedom Day celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom, assesses the state of press freedom throughout the world, defends the media from attacks on their independence, and pays tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

It was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993, following the recommendation of the 26th session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991.

The 2019 World Press Freedom Day is themed “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation”. It aims to address challenges faced by media in elections, along with the media’s potential in supporting peace and reconciliation processes.

Some of these challenges include government clamp down on media houses, restriction of information circulation and dissemination, assault and attacks on journalists as well spread of fake news.

Recently in Lagos, Nigeria, panellists, participants from 32 countries at the Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum organised by Paradigm Initiative decried the growing marginalisation of Africans in information accessibility in the digital space.

The panellists and participants cited different examples of digital rights marginalisation in Africa.

Some African countries in recent years have suffered internet shutdown from their governments to “contain and manage” information circulated through the internet.

Currently, Chad has been without internet for the past 13 months. Algeria, Cameroon, Ethiopia and Tanzania have also been on the receiving end of a government clampdown on citizens’ right to information.

The Nigerian press is also not excluded from government clampdown.

Nigeria is currently ranked 120 out of 180 countries in the latest World Press Freedom Index released by the international media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders.

In January 2019, personnel of the Nigerian Army arrested staff and invaded offices of Daily Trust in Maiduguri and Abuja for publishing a scoop of an impending Boko Haram attack on a town.

Also, the editor and publisher of the Weekly Source Newspaper in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State Jones Abiri was detained by the Department of State Services (DSS) for two years without arraignment in court.

A journalist with Premium Times Samuel Ogundipe, was detained in 2018 by the government for refusing to disclose his source for a story that involved former Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris.


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