The United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) and Penpushing Media have called for need by the Nigerian Government to safeguard independent media in order to protect the country’s democracy.
Penpushing reports that the Country Director of the Centre, Ronald Kayanja made the call at a virtual event organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation(UNESCO) with United Nations Information Centre(UNIC) in collaboration with Penpushing Media to commemorate the 2020 International Day to End Impunity For Crimes Against Journalists
The Director pointed out that journalists, journalism and media houses must be protected by all means, stressing that attacks on media practitioners and media houses were a cause for concern and worrisome
‘When you safeguard independent media, you are protecting the country’s democracy. One way to fight fake news and hate speech which are pervasive through digital media is to strengthen the independent media’, he emphasised.
Penpushing further reports that, Kayanja called on authorities to investigate attack cases while allowing the relevant arms of the law to bring justice in those situations, adding that, “just like support is being provided for other sectors of the economy, to build back a better media, the industry should also be supported’.
“During this pandemic, journalists are also frontline workers, bringing us news updates and briefings. We commend the authorities who, even during the lockdown, recognised the importance of journalism and allowed journalists to move around freely,” he said.
Penpushing also reports that, the Director noted that when journalists did not feel safe, citizens would either not get news reports or get distorted and false news, and therefore suggested that a way to ensure the safety of journalists was to cause the wheels of justice to move speedily whenever a journalist or media house was attacked.
“We all need to work together to protect journalism and the media. Let us renew our commitment to this freedom of expression and of the press through increased advocacy for the safety of journalists,” Kayanja said.
Penpushing reports that the officer-in-charge, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation(UNESCO) Regional Office in Abuja,Sow Lamine in his remarks said that peace, justice and sustainable development in societies could be advanced only by speaking truth to power.
The Regional Office boss, explained that this required concerted efforts by the executive, law enforcement agencies and the judiciary to push for appropriate legislation and develop a strong accountability framework that would eliminate impunity against journalists, stressing,“if you protect journalists, you are protecting the truth’.
Penpushing further reports that, Director General, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation(UNESCO),Audrey Azoulay in her message presented by Lamine, said that one of the most important roles of journalists was to bring truth to light.
“For many journalists, telling the truth comes with a price. Many have lost their lives while covering conflicts, but more are being killed outside of conflict situations for investigating issues including corruption, trafficking, political wrongdoings and others’.
“States, therefore, have an obligation to protect journalists and ensure that the perpetrators of crimes against them are held accountable. Judges and prosecutors in particular have an important role to play in promoting swift and effective criminal proceedings,” she said.
The Chairman, Editorial Board of Penpushing Media, Deaconess Funke Fadugba, in her own speech pointed out that owners of media houses have a role to play in terms of job security and welfare packages for journalists.
“If journalists are not well remunerated, there is a tendency for some of them to be compromised. We need to uphold professionalism because it is when we are unbiased that we can collectively fight impunity for crimes against journalists,” she said.
The Head of Department of Journalism at Lagos State University, Dr Jide Jimoh while contributing stated that the role of the media had been long recognised by governments and stakeholders must guide the press against authoritarian governments worldwide.
Penpushing reports that, Jimoh encouraged the media to self-regulate and keep to the best standards of ethics and professionalism, adding, “governments must realise the sacrosanct role of the media in society and recognise that where the press is free, society is safe. It is futile to gag the press, especially in the age of digital media,” he said.