Safeguarding journalists rights, vital for sustaining democracy-Ubani

By Funmi Falobi & Tobi Oyetunde<

Nigerian journalists have been commended for roles played in the entrenchment of democracy in Nigeria even as the media is urged to do more in the area of enlightening the people.

Speaking at a recent roundtable of the Nigerian Journalists’ Safety Initiative on the theme, “Safeguarding Press Freedom and Safety of Journalists among Rising Conflict”, former Chairman, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja Branch, Monday Ubani said journalists have done so much but they still need to do more to educate the society.

In safeguarding press freedom and safety of journalists in the country, Ubani called on the Federal Government to enact modern and robust laws that will help safeguard journalists. He also urged the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) to ensure that there is adequate and strict compliance to journalism ethics by professionals in discharging their duties.

Ubani, who was represented by Barrister Evans Ufeli  at the event, organized by the International Press Centre (IPC) Lagos, with the support of Open Society Foundations (OSF), pointed out that the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria does not sufficiently give room for press freedom. He noted that a strong freedom of the press,  ensures informed, active and engaged citizenry, and therefore called on journalists and media groups to work for the enforcement of Chapter 2 of the Constitution for them to be able to perform their function as the fourth realm of the estate.

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“Strong freedom of press is essential to ensure the safety of journalist and eradicate impunity. Section 22 and 39 of the 1999 constitutions (as amended) guarantees freedom of expression but in spite of all these constitutional provisions, there is no clear indication of strong and special forms of protection for the press to carry out its constitutional obligations without interference, threat to life or extra-judicial repercussion”, he said.

“Section 45 of the same Nigeria constitution curbs the freedom given by Section 22 and 39. This kind of curtailment is abundantly manifested in Nigeria media environment with draconian legislations and decrees like the Sedition act.” He added.

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Lamenting the various attacks on journalists where some have been killed, he reiterated the importance of maintaining true press freedom in the country. “The special protection that strong freedom of the press should provide journalists and media workers should be holistic to include preventive, protective and pre-emptive measures.”

He therefore urged government to make the environment conducive and safe for journalists to discharge their duties of holding the government accountable to the people.

Mr. Tive Denedo, former Campaign Director of Media Rights Agenda and CEO of Sunfair Communications also decried continuous assaults of journalists and beckoned the pen pushers to position themselves to ensure Nigeria attain the state where there will be true press freedom in the country.

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“No government official will offer you freedom, you must fight and take it forcefully. Journalists should not keep quite when under threat but must always open up on any threat they face from anybody as they go about discharging their duties”, he said.

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