Press freedom in Nigeria is not negotiable in spite all the direct violence and other challenges facing journalists, the Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has said.
Dogara said this on Saturday at a two-day conference organised by the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, to mark the Press Freedom Day in Abuja.
The theme of the conference is: “Press Freedom in Nigeria – Violent Extremism, Rule of Law and the Media.”
The conference was organised with the support of the British Council and the European Union (EU).
Dogara also described those who attacked the media through fake news as the “enemies of the people’’.
He said that they were bent on eroding the credibility of the press, saying they were as dangerous as those perpetrating violence against journalists.
The Speqker pledged the support of the parliament to the Nigerian press in its efforts to uphold fairness, objectivity and truth.
“As legislators, we will always stand up and speak out for pressmen and media outfits that uphold the ethics of fairness, objectivity, truthfulness and patriotism in their practice.
“I hope the 9th Assembly will dedicate itself to enacting enabling laws that will prioritise the protection and welfare of journalists to enable them do their work democratically.
“The theme of this year’s celebration is most apt as Nigeria now faces one of the worst periods of insecurity manifesting in violent extremism, rampant cases of kidnapping, cattle rustling.
“Herder/Farmers violent conflicts and murderous campaign of bandits across Nigeria. These are major challenges to media practitioners.
“The media must constantly balance the need to inform the citizens with their equally weighty responsibility to ensure that their reports do not contribute to exacerbating an already dangerously tense and fragile situation.
“In all nations of the world, the citizens appreciate the role of the press to inform, educate and entertain as well as promote accountability of the government to the people,’’ the lawmaker said.
In his assessment of the relationship between government and the press in Nigeria under the present dispensation, he described it as banal.
“We are all witnesses to recurring examples of coercion, threats, brutality, arrests, incarceration and media shut down perpetrated by the state against journalists and their establishments.
“Instances of these draconian measures adopted by state actors abound during the recent elections held in parts of the country and the general elections,’’ he said.
Dogara, however, said that the organised press media in Nigeria had largely acquitted itself creditably, saying it had waged many memorable campaigns against tyranny and corruption.
“Our media practitioners definitely deserve some applause.
“But we will do better, if we never stop documenting and exposing all cases of oppression of journalist by enemies of open society who masquerade as democrats.
“If we never cease to demand that those in power must halt efforts to curtail press freedom and freedom of expression and above all, continue with courage to bring the laws and hold those in power to account,” Dogara stressed.