Saraki: Strengthening Democracy Depends on Press, Parliament

  • Obaigbena: Hosting IPI congress is opportunity to showcase Nigeria
  • Traori charges Nigerian media owners to look beyond rivalry

Olawale Ajimotokan, Damilola Oyedele and Omotayo Olaleye in Abuja

Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has said the strengthening of Nigeria’s democracy is dependent on the parliament and the press, calling for a close collaboration between both institutions.

Saraki said this thursday when he received the Director of International Press Institute (IPI), Barbara Traori, and members of the Congress Organising Committee led by the Chairman, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, on a courtesy visit.
Saraki said as partners in the progress of Nigeria, the legislature and the press must be strengthened as institutions.

“We really should be partners in progress and work together. That is not happening; there is need for us to continue to do so based on the understanding that we are on the same side. Institutions like ours must be strengthened, and when we strengthen our institutions, we don’t strengthen individuals because some of us will come and go, but we must strengthen our institutions and democracy.

“We should continue to see how the press and parliament can work together as institutions as this will go a long way in ensuring that our peoples are better served,” Saraki added.

The senate president also harped on the need for quality reporting from the media to help democracy thrive, adding that modes to ensure quality reporting should be explored further.

He added that freedom of press and freedom of expression are relatively good in Nigeria.

“Hosting the IPI Congress in June 2017 would provide the delegates from the global media community the opportunity to have a better understanding of Nigeria, enhance interaction on issues regarding the country and the continent.
“Some us believe that the growth and stability of the continent and the world generally today depend on what happens in Africa. When the world starts getting the accurate reports of what happens in Nigeria, the world will be a better place; it is long over due but it is better late than never,” Saraki said.

The Director of IPI, Traori, extended an invitation to Saraki to speak at the congress
which starts from June 21 to 23, and address the delegates, which would help world editors and journalists at the meeting to understand the progress made in Nigeria.

“This is also what we, in our communication about this congress, have been cheering. We feel this is the right moment for us in IPI, to be in Nigeria because so much have been happening, which has been going in the right direction, and Nigeria is certainly Africa’s most populous country, one of the world’s leading economies. It is time that the world not only covers what is going on in Nigeria, but covers it accurately, having been in contact with some of the most trusted sources from the country,” she said.
Traori disclosed that the decision to host the 2018 edition of the annual congress in Nigeria was enthusiastically received by the IPI General Assembly.

“Whenever we organise a congress, we want to have the full support not only of the media industry of the country, but also the support of the government and state institutions, because we truly believe that this is an important sign for a country to show its support for press freedom, quality media, for the efforts that certainly many within the news industry are doing to bring about accurate information to the people.

“Of course, there would be healthy tensions between the news media and the authorities, but we also do believe that in a democracy such as Nigeria, the space that the state can offer to quality journalism is vital, not only in the sense of ‘hands off’ but also in the sense of proactively giving the journalistic community the safety it needs to work professionally, and the information they (journalists) need about the decision of the state, of the senate, and the government so that there can be coverage in the most accurate way,” she added.

Speaking earlier, the Chairman of THISDAY Newspaper Group/ARISE TV, Obaigbena, said hosting the congress would provide the chance to showcase the best of Nigeria.
“It is in our interest to showcase the best of Nigeria, to showcase our democracy which is thriving and continuing, to showcase the fact that in Nigeria, we don’t quite have the trouble of the media like in the United States,” he said
He urged members of the National Assembly to fully participate in the sessions of the upcoming congress and contribute their quota to promoting free press and freedom of information in Nigeria.

“We are happy that the National Assembly is working with us to speak truth to power, and to hold government at all levels accountable. It is in all our interests to have a better society,” Obaigbena said.

Presenting the closing remarks, former Director General of the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Mr. Tony Iredia, called for the protection of journalists, which is not specified in the constitution even though the role of the media is specified.

In a related development, when Trionfi visited Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, she charged the government and private owned media in Nigeria to cooperate on core values of journalism and look beyond rivalry and competition.

The IPI boss commended the government for its efforts towards promoting press and guaranteeing freedom and the safety of journalists in the country.
She said press freedom can only be achieved if owners put aside business rivalry and competition to develop and promote media interests.

Trionfi was accompanied on the visit by Chairman of IPI Nigeria and Publisher of Media Trust, Mallam Kabiru Yusuf; former Director-General of the NTA, Iredia, and the Secretary of IPI Nigeria, Raheem Adedoyin.

She commended the efforts of government to guarantee freedom and safety of journalists in Nigeria. She reiterated her desire to build closer ties with prominent journalists and editors in the country, saying that would help in strengthening the profession in the future.

Mohammed in his remarks described Nigeria as one of the most media-tolerant countries in the world
He promised that the media has nothing to fear from the present administration as no democracy can thrive without a free press.

“The media has nothing to fear from the government but, on the contrary, we are the ones that cannot sleep with our eyes closed because of the media, which everyday hit us with so many punches. We want to be criticised on facts, but appeal to the media to do their homework thoroughly and be fair to us,” Mohammed pleaded.

The IPI is a network of global journalists, editors and publishers dedicated to the promotion of free press and good governance all over the world.

He appealed to the media to report the government within the context of the daunting challenges facing the country, most of which were inherited by the administration.

The minister thanked IPI for its confidence in Nigeria by granting the country the hosting right for its annual congress, saying government was looking forward to hosting the conference in Abuja to showcase its scorecard in the last 30 months.