By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Abuja
As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to commemorate the 2021 World Press Freedom Day, WPFD, the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, on Monday, lauded the Nigerian press for exhibiting a high level of professionalism in the face of mounting challenges and harassment.
The Commission, through its Executive Secretary, Mr. Tony Ojukwu Esq, noted that the majority of journalists in Nigeria have severally lived up to their professional duties to unearth wrongdoings in the society, even at the risk of their lives and that of their family members.
According to a statement that was made available to newsmen by the Deputy Director Public Affairs at the NHRC, Fatimah Mohammed, Ojukwu, described the theme of this year’s commemoration, ‘Information for Public Good’, as very apt.
He maintained that the theme reminds both the government and the citizens of the importance of information as a tool for national development, particularly in the current world order where the new/social media is making a tremendous impact on people’s attitudes and perceptions.
He said: “It is therefore instructive that the media which has remained an agent of socialisation could rightly be deployed to drive government policies and programmes to the grassroots level”.
Ojukwu further said there was the need to further widen the civic space rather than shrinking it, noting that the media not only exist for the public good but by extension, serves as a catalyst for openness and good governance.
He said the recent legislation and policies of the National Broadcasting Corporation, NBC, which has been challenged by well-meaning Nigerians, should be revisited to avoid human rights infringements while administering such legislations and policies.
“Similarly, we stand with Civil Society to condemn the attempts of some parliamentarians to pass bills restricting social media and civic space. We also stand with civil society to condemn attempts by NBC to impose excessive fines on media houses for activities based on information to the citizens”, the NHRC added.
He however implored the leadership of the Nigerian Union of Journalist, NUJ, to put effective modalities in place to get rid of quacks in the system, stressing that such quacks practice the profession in a wrong way, thereby perpetuating fake news, hate speech, and other unethical conduct which are capable of causing national disunity.
Referring to journalists as human rights defenders, the Chief Human Rights Officer used the opportunity to urge the UN system, African Union, AU, and other international bodies to persuade their member nations to put stringent legislation in place to curb violence against journalists as well as promote life insurance policies for them in countries where they are not already in place.
“This would ensure that families of any deceased or maimed journalists are given the social security protection that they deserve”, Ojukwu added.