By David Nsa and Margaret John
May third each year is recognized as World Press Freedom Day. It was set aside by the United Nations for the observance of press freedom; to inform the international community that freedom of the press and freedom of expression are fundamental rights.
The 2019 theme is “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation”.
And as the world celebrated the 26th edition, CrossRiverWatch spoke to journalists on the challenges encountered in the field over the years, the set parameters to combat these challenges and the effective implementation of the set parameters to ensure press freedom.
Here are the views of some:
For Mr. David Agabi of FAD 93.1 FM Calabar, there are myriads of challenges that have bedeviled the profession.
“Incarceration by security agency, man-handling and persecution by some government officials, particularly those ones that work with the government media. Disappearance and kidnapping of some press men, and illegal detention particularly like the Premium Times journalist that was kidnapped and detained in the State of Kano where he was refused bail for close to nine months before he was later granted bail. Sometimes outright assassination of journalist; the Political Editor of the Guardian that was executed around 2012.
“Another one that is coming up recently is kind of like a subtle war or something the government has been trying to deface the media by coming up with what they call hate speech and fake news. They will tag you for being an enemy of the government, by propagating some kind of hate speech what exactly is the content of hate speech they can’t really tell you, government officials make outrageous speech they go scot free, but if a journalist reports it, it becomes an issue.
“Another dimension to it, is complete takeover of some media houses, a good example of it was what happened in January where the Army actually invaded the office of Daily Trust Newspaper in Lagos, Kaduna, Abuja all the stations were filled up by the military, an Editor was taken away and a journalist that actually covered the story was whisked away by some unnamed military men on uniform, basically because of his report on the Boko Haram war in Borno.
“For the female journalist they have this issues of cooperate prostitution sort of where you have to give what you have to get what you want. So it is predominantly on the female gender you want to get something you have to present what you have and sometimes even getting exclusive interviews you have to oil the hands of some people before you get it,” Agabi said.
For Sharon who works with TVC, other issues hindering press freedom and the full capabilities of journalist, hinge on upholding and implementing the Information Act, proper remuneration of newsmen and the creation of enabling environment for journalists to maximize their capacity.
“There is still a lot to be done especially when comes to the protection of the right of issue freedom of information act which has been enacted has not been used enough by journalists and that is because after several letters have been written, no prevention, especially when it has to do with government. The government should create a more enabling environment for us to tell true stories, by ensuring that for every request that we ask they will allow us to do the job.
“Without information being used, the World Press Freedom Day is not worth celebrating. It is an opportunity for us to look into the issue of media houses not paying workers salary as and when due, which also has a way of hindering journalist from doing their jobs to their full capability because that means that they can be easily bribed,” she said.
Internet journalism is said to have given journalists an edge amidst its challenges. And, the Publisher of Fearless Reports, Mr. Inyali Peter said: “There is nowhere in the world that the media is absolutely free, well the advent of new media has really advanced the issue of press freedom especially in Nigeria”.
Furthermore, the Head of News in Sparkling FM, Mr. Joshua Moses affirmed that reporting in Nigeria is not free at all.
“For me reporting in Nigeria has been paid for, because you don’t get to report and investigate stories the way you are supposed to”.
He pleaded with those in power to always give journalist their way as it is their right. “It would be nice if people in this part of the world know that we are fulfilling our constitutional right as well.”
Mr. Darlington Edem, a reporter for Premium Times who spoke on the challenges said that security is one of the major challenge faced by journalist all over.
“The challenges are peculiar to journalist all over the world not just here in Nigeria alone. Insecurity is still a problem for journalist in Nigeria; it has been and is still much here, we have the issue of some who have been killed and up till now nothing has been done about it,” he said.
For Mr. Effiong Maxwell who works with the Cross River Broadcasting Corporation, “Just like every other profession, journalism is the key to the development of a Nation, looking at the just concluded general election so many journalist lost their lives to answer to the Nation’s call. If the government of Nigeria and the world really wants the press to exercise their freedom, and government should guard against injustice to journalist as it is their duty”.
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