Media experts have urged more action on the part of the government to ensure press freedom in Nigeria.
The experts spoke at a webinar put together in commemoration of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.
The programme, organised by the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), held on Thursday, via zoom.
To mark the event, the centre launched its “State of Press Freedom Report,” a critical analysis of the state of press freedom in Nigeria.
In her opening remarks, the PTCIJ Programme Director, Tosin Alagbe, said the publication reflects on the state of press freedom in the country, adding that, a free press is vital for every democracy.
In his review of the 108-paged report, Lanre Arogundade, executive director of the International Press Centre, said a careful examination of the report makes it understandable why Nigeria belongs to the batch of countries that have “earned” the badge of “bad” on the press freedom index.
Mr Arogundade said the Nigerian media seems to be at a poetic press freedom cross-roads – wondering where to turn.
He added, however, that the report is asking the people to “consciously” fight for a free space to avoid permanently staying at the cross-roads and worst still, be perpetually subjugated.
Mr Arogundade noted that the report reflects the reality on ground, looking at the dangerous trend of assault on the rights of journalists and media independence.
He added that the report is an indication of commitment to curbing the menace of threat to press freedom. He further recommended the publication to scholars and professionals in the fields of Journalism and Sociology.
Split into six different sections, the report established facts on fundamental issues on the current state of press freedom.
The first chapter spoke on “Reflecting on press freedom” while the second section focused on “Stemming impunity against Journalists.”
The third part covers “Building hedges against Impunity” while the fourth section discusses extensively on “Impunity beyond politics.”
“In the eye of the storm,” is the fifth chapter while the last section is “Public perception of media and press freedom.”
The report also covers the correlation between press freedom, development and democratic consolidation.
There was also a focus on attacks on journalists and the media in Nigeria, which remain high over the years.
Data mined from the press tracker for the purpose of that report showed that the attacks on journalists and the media are multi-dimensional with physical harassment and arrests being the most prevalent.
It also reveals that the perpetrators of the attacks are mostly the government, state institutions, security agencies and political parties.
Jonathan Rozen, a senior researcher at the Committee to Protect Journalists, said the report showcased leadership that’s important for journalists in the quest for press freedom all over the world.
In her submission, Motunrayo Alaka, executive director of the Wole Soyinka Center for Investigative Journalism, said it is instructive to note that, “State has a duty to protect the media but unfortunately it is the highest perpetrator of the media.”
This, she said, is a misunderstanding of media literacy and the basic role of the two parties — government and the media.
She stated further that despite the Freedom of Information Act, journalists are still scavenging for Information.
Speaking on fundamental issues of threat to press freedom, Mrs Alaka spoke about self-censorship and media independence across the country.
On concerns regarding misinformation and fake news, Mrs Alaka called on editors to participate more on social media conversations in order to reduce the level of misinformation.
In her contribution, Pinado Waba, one of the panelists, said there was an urgent need for the media to redefine its role and purpose in the society.
According to her, the media focus so much on its information role, abandoning the advocacy and watchdog function.
Central to this point, she said, is building a financially sustainable media system in the country.
Mrs Waba also encouraged collaboration in the media despite heated competition.
Earlier in his remarks, Dapo Olorunyomi, the Executive Director of PTCIJ, stressed the importance of press freedom as a component of any sound democratic society.
According to him, nothing is more important for journalists than the “freedom” to do their job without fear of reprisals.
In her closing remarks, Stephanie Adams, appreciated the contributors and urged the public to make judicious use of press attack tracker, a platform which dutifully tracks and reports violations against the press.