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Press Freedom is the freedom of all and freedom for all – Professor Olatunji

Being a welcome address by the Dean, School of Communication on the occasion of one-day conference to mark the 2018 World Press Freedom Day, organised by the Department of Journalism, School of Communication, Lagos State University, on 3rd May 2018 at the school’s Lecture Hall:

Mr Vice-Chancellor, Professor Olanrewaju Adigun Fagbohun; Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academics), Professor O.A.K Noah; Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration), Professor Adedamola Oke; Registrar, Mr. Akinwumi Oladapo Lewis; University Bursar, Mr. Adetayo Dhikrullah Hassan; University Librarian, Dr. Adebarnbo Adewale Oduwole; Honourable Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Honourable Kehinde Bamigbetan; Provost, Deans, Directors and Professors here present; other Principal Officers of the university; distinguished participants, staff and students of LASU School of Communication; Gentlemen of the Press; ladies and gentlemen.

Professor Rotimi Olatunji, Dean, LASU School of Communication.

On behalf of the Lagos State University School of Communication, LASUSOC, I welcome you all to the 2018 World Press Freedom Day. Globally, today’s World Press Freedom Day is the 25th edition of an event that was established in 1976 by a batch of independent journalists to promote and defend press freedom and cover 44 media organisations from around the world. World Press Freedom Day is observed every year on 3rd of May around the world. The United Nations General Assembly announced May 3 as the World Press Day or World Press Freedom Day in order to spread awareness on the significance of press freedom and to remind the government of its duty to uphold and respect the right to freedom of expression.

Freedom of expression is a basic human right as listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19. World Press Freedom Day was initially arranged in 1993 by the United Nations General Assembly as an initiative to reflect upon the freedom of press internationally. The global theme for the 20l8 World Press Freedom Day is: Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law. The sub-themes include:

*Justice for all as an imperative for sustainable development and freedom of expression.
*Promoting the potential of media as a catalyzer of mutual understanding and peace.
*Freedom of information and freedom of expression encourage more inclusive societies.

For us at the LASU School of Communication, the theme: Press Freedom, Electoral Process and Politics in Nigeria, is adopted. The electoral process is arguably the most democratic avenue for the assumption of power. And in Nigeria, to a majority of our politicians, the electoral process has been so much compromised that it is seen as a game of ‘do or die’, which should not be so. And in view of the rapidly approaching 2019 general elections, one of the ways to keep power in check is through ballot. Hence, the theme of today’s conference synchronises with the global Press Freedom Day, and highlights the role of the press in safeguarding the right to freely vote, be voted for and to express free opinion in connection with the electoral processes as to produce a most democratically elected officers, who should be sustained in power through openness, transparency and accountability. There is no other arm of the government in Nigeria and globally that is saddled constitutionally with the task to keeping power in check, enhance justice and maintain the rule of law than the Press.

As we speak, the 25th celebration of World Press Freedom Day jointly organised by UNESCO and the Government of the Republic of Ghana is taking place in Accra, Ghana (2- 3 May). More than 900 media professionals, international and multilateral organisations, government representatives and stakeholders from civil society and intergovernmental organisations, are participating at the global annual event.

The World Press Freedom Day is also an occasion to confer honour on the most deserving journalist whose professionalism and personal sacrifices have tremendously advanced the course of global press freedom. In this regard, Egyptian photojournalist, Mahmoud Abu Zeid, known as Shawkan, has been selected by an independent international jury of media professionals as the laureate of the 2018 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize. He is a photojournalist who has been in jail since 14 August 2013 when he was arrested while covering a demonstration at Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square in Cairo. Therefore, the World Press Freedom Day is a most auspicious occasion to draw global attention to the plights and dangers that journalists are confronted with in the course of their duty.

For us in Nigeria, in spite of the sustenance of the nation’s democratic process since 1999 when the Fourth Democratic Republic was instituted, Press Freedom is daily threatened, voices of opposition are muzzled, working conditions of journalists are daily compromised, many journalists are exposed to hazards in the coverage of the hydra- headed spate of violence, conflicts, warfare in the North-East, North-Central, South-South, South-East, and even South-West. No place is safe for the Nigerian journalist. The electioneering processes further expose the Nigerian journalist to needless danger, harm and deprivations. It is as it was when the struggle for human liberty began, “Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains”.

Mr. Vice-Chancellor, Sir, Press Freedom is the freedom of all and freedom for all. Press Freedom is the fundamental rights of all humans. It is upon the foundation of a free, democratic, open, unfettered press that the rights of all members of the society revolve.

I recall that during the 2017 event, the excellent and proud students of the LASU School of Communication won the Premier Edition of the World Press Freedom Day Inter-collegiate Debate Competition organised by the United States Consulate- General, Lagos. We are LASU and we are proud. Accordingly, let me seize this opportunity to make this ‘Executive Order’ – from this time on, the School of Communication will adopt the annual celebration of World Press Freedom Day as a school event, an event that transcends the Department of Journalism.

Mr. Vice-Chancellor, Sir. Honourable Commissioner and Guest Speaker of today, Honourable Kehinde Bamigbetan, Genglemen of the Press, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, distinguished participants, our world class students, ladies and gentlemen, I warmly welcome you to the 2018 edition of the World Press Freedom Day with the major theme: Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law and the sub-theme here at LASUSOC: Press Freedom, Electoral Process and Politics in Nigeria.

Thank you.


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