THE Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has urged the Nigerian government to protect journalists and make provision for easy access to information.
In a statement released by the MRA in commemoration of the 2021 World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) on Monday, the organisation requested that a commitment be made by the Federal Government towards creating a conducive environment for journalists and media workers to safely carry out their professional duties.
The MRA noted that such a commitment would signal government’s genuine belief in the theme of this year’s WPFD, ‘Information as a Public Good’ which, in the words of the Director-General of UNESCO Audrey Azoulay, “underlines the indisputable importance of verified and reliable information.”
Programme Director for the MRA Ayode Longe said that “although Nigeria has a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, its implementation is far from satisfactory as compliance with the provisions of the Law across government has been poor.” He urged the government to put in place mechanisms for the implementation of the Act in Nigeria.
Longe further noted that such mechanisms should aim at improving compliance with the provisions of the Act by public institutions, arguing that if the Act was to make any impact in bringing about transparent governance in the country, its implementation across different levels of government needed to be assured.
He called on all states in Nigeria to implement the Act at state level, adding that only two states –Ekiti and Imo- had passed the FOI laws.
Bemoaning the unimpressive level of implementation of the FOI law in the other 34 states, he said that the argument of non-applicability of the Act could be seen as a mere excuse to foster secrecy in governance.
He stressed the need for citizens to have reliable and timely information about the government, and a safe work environment for media workers to avoid what he described as ‘self-censorship’ which could promote the spread of harmful content.
Longe concluded by advising the government to sensitise the judiciary and law enforcement agencies on the importance of journalists to the society and to ensure the reign of justice in events of attacks against journalists.
The MRA was established in 1993 as a non-governmental nrganisation which exists for the purpose of promoting and protecting media freedom and freedom of expression in Nigeria. The organisation has been a prime mover for the enactment and implementation of the FOI Act in Nigeria.