Mr F. John Bray, United States Consul-General says the media has a duty to play in ensuring that government and political leaders are accountable to the people in a democratic government.

Bray, who spoke at an event to mark the 2017 World Press Freedom Day in Lagos on Wednesday, urged the press to scrutinise and expose any abuse of power by elected government officials.

John Bray

The theme of this year’s Press Freedom Day is: “Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies’’.

Bray said the role of the media as the watchdog of the society was necessary to ensure checks and balances and smooth running of every democracy.

“Unfortunately, not all governments accept such public attention.’’

According to Reporters without Borders, more than a third of the world’s people live in countries where there is no press freedom.

Bray said; “most of them are quasi democracies, with systemic deficiencies in the electoral process, or countries where there is no system of democracy at all’’.

“Working under such conditions, journalists risk everything to hold regimes accountable.’’

He said that the U.S strongly supports press freedom and believed that an unfettered press was essential for every democracy to thrive.

The U.S envoy said his country passed the Freedom of Information Act in July 1966, which became a law in 1967, adding that there had been several amendments to strengthen the law.

“More recently, on May 17, 2010 to be specific, former U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Freedom of the Press Act.

“It was named after the Wall Street reporter, Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists in Pakistan, four months after the September 11 attacks in the U.S.

“The U.S, however, understands that with more freedom comes more responsibility,’’ Bray said.

According to him, advances in technology and increased reliance on social media platforms as sources of information make the accuracy and objectivity of reporting crucial.

He, therefore, urged Journalists to check and double check facts before putting out a story, to ensure personal credibility and the reliability of their platforms.

“Be thorough in your research and strive to look for every side of a story before you hit the send button,” Bray said.

 

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