THE Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has pledged to protect press freedom in the state.
Sanwo-Olu made the promise today in Ikeja, the state capital, at a workshop organised by the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE).
The theme of the workshop was, ‘Journalist and Digitalisation: The Imperative of Good Corporate Governance.’
A statement issued today by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Gboyega Akosile, quoted the governor as saying that the government appreciated the watchdog responsibilities of the media but appealed to journalists to regulate their activities.
Sanwo-Olu said, “I stand with you (media practitioners) in solidarity to say that, indeed, your profession is not just a noble one, but it’s the one that gives the general public an independent assessment, holding our governance and government accountable at all times. And so, we need to be very careful as politicians and public officers that we do not gag this profession (media) and do not unduly stifle free press.
“Our government understands and appreciates that press freedom is the way in which we can hold government accountable. But it is also the responsibility of all of us here to ensure that we understand the thin line; and also self-regulate our activities.”
The governor expressed his agreement with the president of the NGE that the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) should not only be independent, it should be equipped with men of impeccable character and integrity.
Tasking the media to eradicate fake news in the digital space, he asked the leaders of the NGE to be more circumspect in the dissemination of news, adding that once information was released, it cannot be retrieved.
The NGE president, Mustapha Issa, said at the event that the media would not succumb to pressure from the government to determine the people’s right to information.
Issa described the situation where the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) that reports to the Minister of Information would also be the one to unilaterally impose fines on broadcast stations for unfavourable reports as tantamount to gagging the media.
The ICIR recently reported that the NBC imposed a fine of N5 million on Trust Television Network (Trust TV) over the broadcast of a documentary on the bandits terrorising Zamfara State and other parts of the North-West.
The documentary, titled, ‘Nigeria’s Banditry: The Inside Story’, was aired by the station on March 5, 2022.
The NBC notified the media house of the fine in a letter dated August 3, 2022, and signed by its Director General, Balarabe Shehu Illela.
According to the Commission, the fine was imposed on Trust TV because its broadcast of the said documentary contravened sections of the National Broadcasting Code.
But in its response to the NBC fine, Daily Trust, the parent company of Trust TV, said the documentary was aired in the public interest.
Meanwhile, the International Press Centre has expressed its disappointment with the NBC over the fine, which it tagged as an “arbitrary fine.”