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U.S. tasks FG on press freedom as HURIWA urges DSS to set up rights desk

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[FILES] Mrs. Claire Pierangelo, Consul General of the US Consulate.


The U.S. Consulate General, Claire Pierangelo, yesterday, stressed that media freedom and freedom of expression are vital to a thriving democracy, noting that the Biden-Harris administration is committed to putting human rights at the heart of its foreign policy.

She said there have been concerns about Nigeria on the freedom of journalists to do their job. According to her, “We take note when legislation is introduced which could have significant consequences for the freedom of the press.”

Pierangelo spoke during a ‘Conversation on Press Freedom, Freedom of Expression and Civic Space’, organised by the United States Diplomatic Missions in Nigeria.

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She said: “Nigerian government’s ongoing suspension of Twitter and stated intent to introduce registration requirements for other social media platforms is deeply worrisome. Banning or significantly restricting social media, including under threat of prosecution, undermines Nigerians’ human rights and fundamental freedoms. The meetings between Twitter and government technical committee last week, aimed at resolving the suspension, encourage us.”

She called on members of the press to be vigilant in protecting the right to freedom of expression and press freedom. She noted: “The United States, however, understands that with more freedom comes more responsibility. Advances in technology and increased reliance on social media platforms as sources of information make the accuracy and objectivity of your reporting crucial. More than ever before, good journalism relies on accurate, in-depth, and critical reporting of facts on matters of public concern or interest.”

Media experts at the event warned that the absence of press freedom would empower the government to abdicate its responsibilities and embolden it to act without checks.

The founder, Foundation for Investigative Journalism, Fisayo Soyombo, said government sponsors most media houses, putting the media platforms in a tight spot.

“The media has to rethink its survival model and look at new realities of funding which allow them an alternative.

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As long as we have such sponsorship scenarios, journalists won’t do their best. So, we need a new method or have to change the old one.

“We have people that think about only what they can get and what they can prevent from happening to them. We need too get to the point where journalists realise that injury to one is injury to all and understand that this is about the future of the country and the people in it.”

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), meanwhile, has called on the Department of State Services (DSS) to “set up a human rights desk where members of the public can report breaches of their constitutionally guaranteed rights.” It also desired that the unit would “interface with credible civil rights organisations for manpower and capacity training of operatives on global best practices and legal obligations.”

HURIWA disclosed this in a statement in Abuja by its national coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, and national media affairs director, Miss. Zainab Yusuf.

It condemned “systematic clamp down on journalists” and President Muhammadu Buhari “for escalating attacks against the citizen’ enjoyment of freedoms of expression including the illegal ban imposed on the use of Twitter for over a month.”

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