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‘Nigeria’s economy too weak to support press freedom’

By Matthew Ogune and Sunday Aikulola, Abuja
25 November 2021   |   4:06 am
Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, The Guardian, Martins Oloja, has said the nation’s economy is too weak to support press freedom.

Executive Director, International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Dayo Aiyetan (left); Professor of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisike; Editor-in-Chief/Managing Director, The Guardian, Martins Oloja; Managing Director, Daily Trust, Stella Iyaji; Executive Director, Media Rights Agenda, Edaetan Ojo and Editor-in-Chief, Premium Times, Mojeed Musikilu during the Media Dialogue themed, ‘Role of the Media in Promoting Public Accountability’, held in Abuja…yesterday. PHOTO: LUCY LADIDI ATEKO

Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, The Guardian, Martins Oloja, has said the nation’s economy is too weak to support press freedom.

Oloja stated this in Abuja, yesterday, during a media dialogue hosted by International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).

He noted that the country is in dire need of strong capitalisation to support robust investigative journalism that can hold public officials accountable.

Calling for support from the private sector, Oloja warned that if media managers continue to depend on wicked and criminal leaders that brought down Nigeria for capitalisation, situation could worsen.

He said only good journalism can improve Nigeria’s governance system, in terms of holding people to account and monitoring them until they work in the interest of the citizens.

He said: “It costs a lot of money to do independent journalism. It is not about the reporters, even if some reporters are lazy and don’t want to do much. But if you want to do investigative journalism, you need capital.

“If Nigeria’s economy remains like this, we are going nowhere because we don’t have good capitalisation to support robust investigative journalism. Most of the proprietors do not have money; they depend on the system for survival. So, we end up giving awards to the people we are supposed to be holding accountable.

“We can’t practice robust journalism. What we are doing here is public relations and marketing, not journalism. The country’s economy is too weak to support press freedom because managers always depend on the system we are monitoring for revenue. And that is the problem.”

Oloja explained further: “Journalists of today are trying. Journalists of today are very educated. But we are working in bondage; bondage of the systemic failure that we cannot report.

“We have some questions. We have some documents. But can we show boldness in what we do because they owe us or because we need their adverts?

“The solution is for us to work with the election management agency in Nigeria, and in the states, to have good people in government, to improve our economy. If we do not have a robust economy and good federalism that will make states proactive in managing their destinies, rather than coming to Abuja to share small revenue that is not up to the revenue of New York City, we won’t get out of this situation.”

Earlier in their opening remarks, ICIR Executive Director, Dayo Aiyetan, and Country Director of MacArthur Foundation, Dr. Kole Shettima, stressed the importance of independent journalism to promoting vulnerable voices.