Media under attack in Nigeria; democracy in danger — Guild of Editors

By Anayo Okoli

THE Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, has restated its commitment in defence of democracy and press freedom in Nigeria, vowing that nothing would make journalists buckle under pressure to abandon the promotion of democracy and press freedom.

The decision was part of the communiqué issued at the end of the town hall meeting/capacity building training for editors held across the six geo-political zones.

A total of 350 editors participated in the programme.

According to the editors, having contributed immensely to the sustenance of democracy in the country, including putting the lives of many of its members on the line via constant harassment, brutalisation and death, they are now more equipped and energized by the training to discharge their constitutional role of holding government accountable to the people.

The editors commended the US Embassy in Nigeria for sponsoring the regional training workshop for 350 editors across the six geopolitical zones and urged it to also support step-down trainings for line editors and reporters.

In the communiqué signed by NGE’s President, Mustapha Isah, and the General Secretary, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, the NGE explained that having consistently put down lives of its members in defence of democracy, it had also resolved to take the gauntlet by sifting from the array of aspirants angling for the presidency, governorship, the national and state assemblies’ elections in order to ensure that the electorate were provided with credible information to enable them make good choices in the democratic process.

They said: “Editors have resolved to assist in ensuring that frivolous and unserious candidates as well as those who have not demonstrated any capacity for leadership, are weeded out from the race.

“That ahead of the 2023 general election, editors should engage more with other stakeholders like civil society groups, Independent National Electoral Commission, security agencies and others in deepening the democratic process.

“The editors should also ensure that the parties and their candidates are properly guided along issue-based campaigns and discourage campaigns anchored on exploring the ethnic, religious and regional divide that tend to put the country asunder.”

Insisting that the media thrived better under a democratic rule, the editors explained that the media had contributed significantly, more than any section of the Nigerian society, in enthroning, promoting and sustaining the cause of democracy in Nigeria.

The NGE stated further:  “While other sections of the society were pummelled under military dictatorship, the media stood like the rock of Gibraltar and had the effrontery to look the military in the eye.

“Unfortunately, in spite of the huge human and material resources of the country, many years of democratic rule have not brought significant development in different sectors to meaningfully impact on the lives of the Nigerian people. But the media will not give up in the its defence of democracy.’’

The editors also resolved to explore the use of fact-checking tools to verify stories, as part of the process of erasing the credibility gap and to checkmate the increasing misinformation, disinformation and deliberate falsehood in cyberspace at present.

“There is need for the media to always use fact check tools to verify its stories. And that no matter how reliable a source has been in the past, the media should always be circumspect about any disclosures from any sources by double checking the information,’’ the NGE noted.

On media regulation, the NGE stated:   “Editors agreed that the media should endeavour to regulate professional practice and also ensure proper corporate governance on the part of the owners of media houses, in order to guarantee adequate supply of working tools, better working environment and improvement in staff welfare.”

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