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Stop selective media briefings, Governor Obaseki

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Sir: We in the Civil Empowerment & Rule of Law Support Initiative, CERLSI, are concerned about the need for the Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki to reform processes linked to proper and seamless dissemination of information in Edo State. CERLSI is an organisation set up to educate Nigerian citizens on the import of the vote, their rights and privileges under the laws of Nigeria. Our focal areas include citizen engagement and capacity building, rule of law, community advocacy, media, human rights.

At present, officials responsible for letting Edo people know about governance in Edo State allegedly do it selectively and confine it to the who-know-man syndrome. In Obaseki’s first term as governor, media aides were alleged to take only calls from journalists based on personal relations with journalists and on ‘special arrangement,’ a situation that greatly hurt perception of the Edo government as one cultivating cronyism, nepotism and a curator of underhand media dealings.

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In 2018, the Edo State government expressed interest to sign on to the Open Government Partnership, OGP, to promote access to information, fiscal transparency, zero tolerance to corruption and citizen participation. Therefore, giving tacit recognition to certain elements within the media in Edo State and the seeming discrimination against online media practitioners make the state government’s interest in the OGP just lip service, and a formal exercise devoid of the substance of openness, transparency and accountability’

Watchers of the media spectrum in Edo State have held that the practice of briefing ‘selected’ journalists by a forward-looking government as that of Edo goes against the grain of fairness, objectivity and balance. The practice supports the widely-held view that the only reason why Obaseki invites ‘selected’ journalists is that there are only pecuniary advantages accruing from being invited for briefing by government.

If only ‘selected’ journalists are invited for briefings, how will Edo State develop or grow? CERLSI challenges the governor to walk his Open Government talk by embarking on an independent audit of all media practitioners in the state, with a view to promoting a playing field that truly engenders citizen participation, access to information, and a fiscal transparency that establishes a zero-tolerance to corruption in Edo State.

CERLSI believes that Obaseki has the capacity to depart from the obnoxious status quo by setting up an independent audit of online and mainstream media in the state. An independent audit made up of representatives of CSOs, journalists, religious institutions and government officials will do a baseline study, and map the media landscape in Edo. If that happens, it immediately sets off a reform for access to information and promotes fiscal transparency in Edo governance.
Bob Majiri Oghene Etemiku is deputy executive director of CERLSI.

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CERLSIGodwin Obaseki
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