CJID launches Press Freedom Training Manual 

THE Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) has launched a Press Freedom Manual to commemorate the 2022 World Press Freedom Day.

The Press Freedom Manual, a resource material that highlights the constraints to a free and safe press, was launched on Thursday in Abuja.

The event which was themed ‘State surveillance and threats to journalists’ practice in 2022′ was graced by reputable journalists, researchers and activists in the civic space who spoke about policies and challenges facing press freedom in the country.

According to the CJID, the aim of the training manual is to deepen the public’s understanding of press freedom and its challenges in Nigeria under military and democratic governments.

The manual also explores the various historic attempts at restoring the dignity of the press in Nigeria and the newfound primacy of digital rights in the press freedom discourse for the 21st Century

Delivering the opening remarks, Tobi Oluwatoba, CJID executive director, noted that press freedom serves to protect the freedom of people and not only journalists.

“Press Freedom serves to protect the rights of the people. Because it protects the rights of people, it is not just the right of the press that we are protecting, it is the right of all of us,” he said.

Oluwatoba condemned the worrying increase in digital surveillance, attacks, arrests and harassment of journalists and civil society actors by the state through some of its instruments and main actors.

In his keynote address, Chidi Odinkalu, former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), decried what he described as the President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s war against truth, evidence and civic participation and promotion of disinformation.

Odinkalu said, “When General Buhari, as the military leader, re-enacted Decree 4 in 1984, he changed one thing; he made truth no longer a defence to a charge under that law.

“That Buhari of 1984 didn’t change much contrary to the blandishments of people who told us about reformed democrats and change. That General Buhari didn’t change as such. Indeed the war of the Buhari enterprise against truth and evidence and effective civic participation has deepened since he returned to power. But that person didn’t fundamentally change.

“And now official disinformation is led by the government. So the biggest investment in Buhari’s government is in appointment in media positions. And he’s got this army of people working on official disinformation led by a minister for information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.”

Odinkalu described press freedom as a  universal idea that should not be misconstrued as a foreign idea.

He said, “I get rather worried, and this is my personal opinion, when something as universal as free expression is presented to an African audience as a Socratic idea and therefore as a Western idea. It is not Western.

“Sometimes passing off these ideas as Western or Socratic will enable would-be authoritarians to say ‘well these are not our ideas, these are foreign ideas’.”

In his review of the book, Victor Alumah Ayedun, a professor in the Mass Communication Department, University of Jos, said the manual is comprehensive and provides in depth analysis of the challenges facing the press globally.

He described the six modules’ book as an exploit of highly skilled and experienced journalists and writers within and outside Nigeria, adding that it would be useful for researchers and students and scholars of comparative media studies.






     

     

    The president of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Chris Isiguzo, in his remarks, expressed concerns that Nigeria was sliding in the global index of press freedom rather than improving.

    “It is worrisome that between 2021-2022, instead of improving on the global press freedom, Nigeria is going down and that does not speak well of a country that is in democracy,” he said.

    The NUJ president also urged the government to put necessary measures in place to ensure the welfare of journalists.

    He said, “For democracy to thrive, for a democracy to be considered as being responsive, you must have a media that works. The government must come up with necessary legislation to ensure that a salary structure that can address the challenges of journalists is put in place.”

     

    Nurudeen Akewushola is an investigative reporter and fact-checker with The ICIR. He believes courageous in-depth investigative reporting is the key to social justice, accountability and good governance in society. You can reach him via [email protected] and @NurudeenAkewus1 on Twitter.

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