22 June 2018

Nigeria: The World Needs Good Journalism - Buhari

Photo: The Guardian
President Muhammadu Buhari.

President Muhammadu Buhari has urged the media to practice good journalism in order rid the world of hate speech and insecurity.

The president said this during the opening ceremony of the 67th International Press Institute's (IPI) world congress 2018 in Abuja on Thursday.

The 2018 world congress is titled "Why Good Journalism Matters: Quality Media for Strong Societies".

According to the Nigerian president, good journalism matters in a world where the borderline between hate speech and free speech has become blurred.

"In an environment where fake news dwarfs investigative reporting, good journalism matters. For survival in an increasingly competitive field, good journalism matters," he said.

The president said good journalism promotes good governance while noting that the changing media landscape, the explosion of social media and the rapidly evolving new technology have had profound impact on media business and media practice.

Mr Buhari said the IPI annual congress is holding in Nigeria during a period of global terrorism.

According to him, (part of) Nigeria's experience is the scourge through Boko Haram, which has been technically degraded and has no territorial hold anywhere, anymore, in its north-east operational base. "The Internally Displaced Persons are gradually returning to their communities in reasonable safety and security," he said.

Similarly, the executive director of IPI, Barbara Trionfi said it is evident that independent journalism is under attack and press freedom has eroded all over the world.

"From Mexico to the Philippines, from Zimbabwe to Turkey, from Russia to Ethiopia, journalists are being imprisoned. They are directly targeted and labeled as traitors and enemies of the state and they are killed, shot in front of their houses or on their way to work," she said.

Ms Trionfi said the murderers know that doing these to journalists is the easiest way to silence them and ensure that the stories of corruption they are investigating or the wrongdoings they have uncovered will never be revealed.

"At least 43 journalists have been killed so far in 2018 in places like Afghanistan, Mexico, India, Pakistan or the Philippines to mention a few. Journalists are denied access to justice. They are threatened and insulted on social media," she said.

She urged the government to guarantee the safety of journalists across the world while lamenting that safety has been a serious problem for journalists in Nigeria, despite freedom of the press.

"Also here in Nigeria, a country with a very lively news industry which enjoys a good degree of press freedom, safety has been a serious problem for journalists, not only those covering the areas where insurgents are active but also journalists covering corruption have been targeted," Ms Trionfi said.

Meanwhile, Nduka Obaigbena, President of the Newspaper Proprietors' Association of Nigeria (NPAN) said journalists in Nigeria fight for the rights of the citizens and have continued to enjoy freedom.

He said immigration remains one central issue all over the world. "In Europe and on the sea of the Mediterranean, a lot of Africans are dying".

"If we all can also report it in a robust way, perhaps we can also reverse this. The issue of course, l believe is economic. With $3 or $4 million dollars here in Nigeria, we can keep them here," he said.

According to him, Nigeria is facing security challenges and is trying to deal with it but we must remember where it started. After democracy came, we were not concerned about the size of our security forces with regards to our armed forces before Boko Haram set sail.

"Now, we are confronted by a menace and we all have to put our heads together to rebuild our total security infrastructure, bring police teams to the communities, to the cities, so that we can ensure the safety of our citizens and therefore promote economic growth," Mr Obaigbena concluded.

International Press Institute (IPI) is a global organisation dedicated to the promotion and protection of press freedom and the improvement of journalism practices.

The institute was founded in October 1950. It has members in over 120 countries.

In a statement later on Thursday, the presidency stated that President Muhammadu Buhari is resolutely committed to the freedom of the press and his administration will ensure that media personnel in the country discharge their duties without let or hindrance.

The presidency said it is "very uncharitable" for anyone or group to suggest otherwise or infer that the president is in support of restrictions on freedom of expression and the media.

Several speakers at the opening of the World Congress of International Press Institute (IPI), which held at the conference centre of the state house villa, Abuja, lamented the fact that a Nigerian journalist, Jones Abiri, had been in detention without trial for two years.

Mr Buhari's spokesperson, Garba Shehu, in a statement on Thursday night, reacted to the issue of arrest and continued detention of Mr Abiri, "who allegedly parades himself as a journalist.

"It is instructive to note that the accused is a guest of the security agency because of his alleged involvement in militant and criminal activities," Mr Shehu said.

He also said the issue of Mr Abiri had been brought to the attention of the presidency by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

"As a true believer in the rule of law and the integral role of the media in a democracy, the presidency did interface with the security agency involved in the matter and our findings confirmed that the suspect is in custody because of alleged involvement in pipeline vandalism and theft.

"Mr Abiri is not a registered journalist with any of the media professional bodies in the country. There is no evidence of his belonging to any chapel or membership of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) or payment of the union's check-off dues.

"Abiri's stock-in-trade and notoriety in the liberalised Nigeria media industry include fronting as a spokesman for militants engaged in economic sabotage in the Niger Delta region," Mr Shehu said.

He said the Buhari administration will continue to promote the freedom and safety of journalists and will do nothing untoward to damage the credibility it has demonstrated in promoting press freedom since coming into power in 2015.

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