THE International Press Institute (IPI) Nigeria has vowed to resist attempts to undermine press freedom in the country.
IPI Nigeria President Muskilu Mojeed made the vow at an event held to commemorate the World Press Freedom Day at the International Press Centre, Radio House, Abuja, on Friday.
Mojeed said IPI was determined to support press freedom at all times, adding that the organisation would resist any measure or action that threatens the principles of journalism.
He said, “IPI and its members are totally committed to credible and independent journalism, media freedom, freedom of speech and the free flow of news and information. We will always stand firm and resist any measure or action that threatens these matters and principles for which we stand.
“Not to resist any oppressive and repressive policy or action directed at the media is to allow authoritarianism, poor governance and corruption to thrive.”
Mojeed stressed that Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution compelled the press, including radio, television and other agencies of the mass media to, at all times, be free to hold government accountable to the people.
Speaking at the event, a former Director-General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Tonnie Iredia highlighted some of the challenges faced by Nigerian journalists.
He identified ownership and control, weak constitutional backing, insufficient and obsolete facilities, poor/irregular remuneration and digital siege as some of the challenges faced by the press in Nigeria.
Iredia also argued that Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution did not empower the press as widely believed.
He said, “Nigerian journalists are under constant surveillance now, social media is there monitoring every activity of newsrooms.
“The most serious challenge for me is that there’s no constitutional backing. I have seen some journalists mistakenly saying that Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution empowers the media, that’s wrong. Section 22 of the Nigeria Constitution is an assignment, it’s not an empowerment. Instead of giving power to do it, they generalised the power, saying freedom of speech not freedom of press. These aren’t the same thing.
“Why must we be scared of giving the media the power to do what Section 22 of the Constitution asked them to do? The freedom we are saying is restricted to ownership. Professionals aren’t protected by laws in Nigeria. “
He noted that Section 162 of the Ghanaian Constitution specifically gave power to the press, just like Section 36 of the Malawian Constitution.
“Go to the United States, there’s a law that states nothing shall be done to abridge the freedom of the press. So, these people know the meaning of press,” he added.
Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Police Force Olumuyiwa Adejobi advised journalists to be conversant with the legal framework guiding media practice in the country.
President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) Chris Isiguzo said the association was working to enhance press freedom by initiating legislation that will empower the media.
Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: email@example.com. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M