Editors decry attempts to criminalise journalism

THE Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has described what it described as attempts to criminalise journalism practice in the country.

The body of Editors said the freedom of the media is needed for the protection of all other human rights.

This was disclosed in a statement signed by NGE President, Mustapha Isah, and the General Secretary, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, on Tuesday, May 2.

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The statement was released to mark this year’s World Press Freedom Day, with the theme, ‘Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of Expression as a Driver for all Other Human Rights’.

“We share the popular notion that freedom of the media is indispensable for protecting all other human rights. Instances abound where inhuman treatment, torture, corruption, misuse of power, impunity and nepotism were exposed because of the reports by the media.

“Disturbing signs of repression, violations of media freedom and several cautious attempts to criminalise journalism practice have been observed in the past few years in our country. There have been different forms of control, censorship, and pressure over the content of mass media in Nigeria, especially the broadcast stations, which have hindered their independence and pluralism.

“Cases of journalists who are deprived of their inalienable rights due to their work continue to occur over and over again. Cases of harassment, intimidation, violence – and even murder – have been documented in the past eight years – by both local and international pro-media rights groups,” the NGE stated.

The NGE also gave the incoming administration the responsibility of launching purposeful, long-lasting policies and initiatives to support journalists’ safety, media freedom, and freedom of expression.

The Guild further stated that it had observed recent deliberate attempts by some National Assembly members, acting in tandem with representatives of the executive branch of government, to criminalise journalism practice in Nigeria.

The NGE promised to engage the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act and that NBC to discuss the Broadcast Code of Conduct with the incoming administration to update and reform the document per international best practices.

    The editors asserted that Nigeria could not be an exception to the rule that pluralistic mass media based on freedom of expression, freedom of information, and freedom of the press are essential to any viable and functional democracy worldwide.

    According to the NGE, two Nigerian journalists Gidado Shuaib and Alfred Olufemi, who were recently found guilty by a lower court in Kwara State, should not have even been charged with a crime, much less found guilty for writing a story on a factory.

    According to the NGE, the conviction of the two journalists sent troubling signals to the media, highlighting the urgent need for legislative change and ensuring that journalism is not criminalised in Nigeria as anti-media forces intend.

    The body advised members of the public to make use of the recently inaugurated nine-member board of the National Media Complaints Commission (NMCC), otherwise known as the National Ombudsman, to report cases of media misconduct.

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