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MRA seeks safe environment for journalists, access to information

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Media Rights Agenda (MRA) urged Federal Government to put in place mechanisms that would ensure easy access to information and create conducive environment for journalists and other media workers to safely carry out their professional duties.

In its message to mark this year’s World Press Freedom Day (WPFD), the group expressed sadness that implementation of Freedom of Information Act is far from satisfactory as compliance with the provisions of the law across government has been poor.

Programme Director of MRA, Mr. Ayode Longe, in a statement, said it had become necessary for the government at the national level to put mechanisms in place “for effective implementation of the Act to enhance ability of citizens to access information for public good.

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According to Longe, such mechanisms should be aimed at improving the level of compliance by public institutions with the provisions of the Act in different critical areas, including responsiveness to requests for information from members of the public, publication of information that they are required to proactively disclose, submission of annual reports to the Attorney-General of the Federation as well as speedy adjudication and resolution of cases arising under the Act.

“If the FOI Act is to make a real impact in bringing about transparent and accountable governance in Nigeria, its implementation across different levels of government also needs to be assured. There is need for all the states to either commit to full implementation of the Act or take urgent steps to enact and implement their own state FOI laws.

“Despite the insistence by many states over the last 10 years that the FOI Act does not apply to them, it is ironic and quite disappointing that only two states – Ekiti and Imo – have so far passed FOI laws for their states and even so, the level of implementation of the laws remains unimpressive,” Longe said.

To MRA, the only conclusion that can be drawn from the situation is that the other 34 states have no intention of being transparent or accountable to their residents but are merely using the excuse of non-applicability of the law to their domains to foster secrecy in governance, thereby depriving citizens of the possibility of participation at the state level.

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