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World Press Freedom Day: IPC, MRA, others seek better deal for journalists

By Sunday Aikulola (Lagos), Ameh Ochojila (Abuja) and Abdulganiyu Alabi (Kaduna)
04 May 2022   |   3:44 am
As the 2022 World Press Freedom Day held yesterday, International Press Centre (IPC) and Media Rights Agenda (MRA) expressed concern over safety of journalists in Nigeria, insisting that the narrative must change.

Lanre Arogundade

As the 2022 World Press Freedom Day held yesterday, International Press Centre (IPC) and Media Rights Agenda (MRA) expressed concern over safety of journalists in Nigeria, insisting that the narrative must change.

IPC Executive Director, Lanre Arogundade, in Lagos, urged government to uphold freedom of expression as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Peoples and Human Rights.

Specifically, he said: “It is worrisome that IPC has monitored and documented not less than 40 press freedom attacks on 49 journalists in 2021 alone, while since 2020, the organisation has identified over 100 journalists and other media professionals, who have been victims of surveillance, spying, harassment, threats, violence, assaults, battery, unlawful arrests, jailing, robberies, kidnappings and suspected murders.”

He stated that the acts were committed by state governments and their agencies, Department of State Services (DSS), Rapid Response Squad (RRS), police officers, state police commands, Intelligence Response Team (IRT), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), unknown gunmen, hoodlums, private organisations, among others.

On this year’s theme, “Journalism Under Digital Siege,” Arogundade observed that the prevalence of press freedom infractions in the country indicates an urgent need for media stakeholders to jointly identify and develop sustainable solutions, including raising the standard of safety of journalists and media freedom.

“The reality is that there is little or no justice or even compensation for the victims, while the perpetrators go scot-free. We must therefore all work together to fortify the safety of journalists and media professionals,” he added.

According to him, the IPC will, on May 11, launch two documentaries highlighting “interviews with journalists and other media professionals who were victims of brutal press freedom violations during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic-induced lockdown and the #ENDSARS protests.”

He said the public presentation would be followed by a roundtable on protection for journalists during emergencies. MRA, in a statement by its Communications Officer, Idowu Adewale, also urged conducive environment for safer online and offline journalism in the most populous black nation.

Speaking on this year’s theme, he noted that recent advancements in surveillance technologies all over the world and Nigeria’s acquisition of such technologies in recent years were impacting negatively on media freedom and freedom of expression.

BESIDES, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has described the media as the lifeblood of democracy that must be allowed to function for civil rule to thrive in the country.

It maintained that the media “is a key agent for the defence of democracy and it must be encouraged to properly carry out its constitutional tasks as the society’s watchdog.”

Its Executive Secretary, Chief Tony Ojukwu (SAN), observed: “The press is the oxygen of democracy and agents of change and development.”
ALSO yesterday, the Africa Media Development Foundation (AMDF) said press freedom on the continent remains an issue of concern in the face of increasing harassments, arrests, imprisonments, tortures and digital attacks on practitioners.

In a statement by its Executive Director, Illiya Kure, the foundation deplored the killing of journalists in the line of duty and practice. It reads in part: “At AMDF, we salute journalists in Africa and others around the world, who remain in the frontline to practise journalism despite the attacks, threats, imprisonment, losses and blackmails.”

“As we mark the 2022 World Press Freedom Day, we remember each of the 55 journalists killed worldwide in the last one year (UNESCO figures), who died in line of duty, or because of their journalistic practice.”

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