Every 3rd of May the fundamental principles of press freedom is celebrated.
It serves to evaluate press freedom around the world, defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives while carrying out their duties.
With the 2020 theme, “Journalism under digital siege”, Pensioners’ in this special report reflects on the way forward for press freedom in Nigeria.
Freedom of the press is the fundamental principle of communication and expression through various media organisation without any hindrance.
Such freedom implies the absence of interference from government; its preservation may be sought through constitution or other legal protection and security.
Over the years many of the traditional means of delivering information are being slowly superseded by the increasing pace of modern technological advance which also brought along fake news.
Different environments exist for different media, depending on their clime of practice.
There is the authoritarian media environment, the Soviet Media environment and the libertarian media environment.
The ideal media environment is one which gives the media express right to practice without any form of resistance from the government.
After ranking 120 on the World Press Freedom Index in the year 2020, Reporters Without Borders described Nigeria as “one of West Africa’s most dangerous and difficult countries for journalists,” with the situation believed to have worsened.
Despite signing Freedom of Information, FOI, bill into law on May 28, 2011, Nigerian media is perceived to still be struggling with unrestrained access to information in government quarters.
This is aside the harassment of media professionals either with stiffer sanctions or used of force as seen in the brutalization of media personnel by overzealous security personnel.
Recall the Nigeria government banned Twitter for 222 days before it eventually lifted the ban after forcing some conditions on the company.
During that period, the National Broadcasting Commission directed all social media platforms and online broadcasting service providers operating in Nigeria to apply for a broadcast license.
This was followed by a controversial amendment to the NBC Act which sought to stifle media organizations.
How can one best describe the media environment in Nigeria against the backdrop of the push for freedom of the press?
Chairperson, Nigeria Association of Women Journalist, NAWOJ, Oyo State Chapter, Mrs. Jadesola Ajibola, who faulted the information gap between the leaders and the people they governed, called for more availability of information.
“What is it that is hidden that the people must not know about the development of this country? The way forward is to make information available for the people, to the right people, at the right time”
General Manager, Diamond FM, University of Ibadan, Mr Paul Emokhere, who decried the spread of information without proper authentication, called for proper implementation of Freedom of Information Act.
“Freedom of Information is where by the media will have real access and make good use of that thing, because even as at now the issue the enactment of the FOI bill, some people still do not believe that they should release some information, that is one, then two, the Press needs to gear up their own skill so that they won’t be brown envelop Press”
In his views, a key member of Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria BON, Mr. Festus Kehinde, said journalists should enjoy the freedom to practice except when violating the ethics of the profession.
He, however, suggested that social media be regulated to curb dissemination of fake news.
“The information being disseminated on the social media are sometime rumour and unsubstantiated information, and they don’t hesitate to find out, verify authenticate that information before disseminating that information because they want to break that news”
World Press Freedom Day 2022, with the theme, “Journalism under digital siege,” is expected to reunite relevant stakeholders such as policymakers, journalists, media representatives, activists, cyber security managers and legal experts to explore the hindrances and develop concrete solutions that would address the threats to press freedom and privacy across the globe.