Financial dependence, compromise, undermining press freedom in Nigeria -Stakeholders

MEDIA stakeholders have identified journalists’ financial dependence and compromise as major factors undermining press freedom in Nigeria.

They stated this on Thursday, February 15, in Abuja, during one of the panel sessions of a workshop organised by Hope Behind Bars Africa (HBBA) in collaboration with The International Centre for Investigative Reporting (The ICIR), Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), with support from Civicus.

The workshop was aimed at addressing the unlawful detention of human rights activists and the need for freedom of peaceful assembly in Nigeria.

Speaking during the panel session, Managing Editor Premium Times, Idris Akinbajo, urged journalists and media owners to explore other means of financial sustainability rather than dependence on the government, which often leads to censorship.

He urged journalists to be ethical in discharging their duties, adding that oppression of journalists was more prevalent in some states than others due to the actions of many state governors and heads of subnational governments in shrinking civic space.

“At the subnational level, in many states and local governments, what you see is that journalists have become too compromised. So we must first ask ourselves: are we on the right path? Are we doing the right thing?

“If you are sure you are on the right path and doing the right thing, then you have the moral leverage to say, ‘my rights have been violated.’ But if you are not doing that, then it becomes difficult,” he said.

Akinbajo also encouraged local media workers to escalate cases of illegal detention or attacks on journalists and human rights activists to generate more support from journalists nationwide, “which is more effective in pushing back against harassment.”

Also speaking during the session, The ICIR Editor, Bamas Victoria, emphasised the importance of collaboration between organisations in the civic space.

“I definitely think there is a need for more collaboration. I think collaboration has helped out in terms of strategic lawsuits. When you do a report, if you are alone, it is easier for people to come for you. But once you get quite a number of media houses to publish that same report, those coming for you will think: do I want to go against this many media houses? So collaboration works,” she said.

She pointed out that the collaboration between the Coalition of Whistleblower Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) had been efficient in managing issues around harassment and detention of journalists in Nigeria.

A journalist with the Associated Press, Taiwo Hassan, pointed out that in addition to its role in upholding a free press, collaborations in the media lead to impactful reporting, as governments are often forced into taking action when collaborative efforts are made.

He also noted that collaborations do not necessarily have to be limited to national platforms but could involve international media for better impact.






     

     

    “When we do investigations, the most important thing is to generate impact. So one thing I would advise colleagues to do is to find a way they can generate action from outside, which is something that can be done.

    “You not only have to collaborate with international media, one thing you can do if you are doing a story is get an international NGO like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, to comment so they have a sense of ownership. They are likely to use your report for advocacy,” he said.

    Press freedom and harassment of activists have been sources of concern for journalists and other stakeholders in the Nigerian civic space.

    The ICIR reported that at least 39 journalists were harassed across the country by state and non-state actors in 2023. Four of these journalists work at The ICIR.

    Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via [email protected] or @ije_le on Twitter.

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