The United States Consul General in Nigeria John Bray Thursday pledged the US government’s commitment in ensuring a free, credible, peaceful and decent election is conducted in Nigeria come 2019.
The consular made the remarks during the commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day organised by Darcy Zotter, the Public Affairs Officer of the US Consulate in Lagos.
Present at the gathering was the Managing Director, THISDAY Newspapers, Mr. Eniola Bello, amongst other journalists from different media houses.
Themed ‘Media and the Transparency of the 2019 Election’, the speakers and panelists dealt with safety of journalists, transparency of the media and electoral disputes pertaining to the forthcoming elections.
While the former Chairman, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, spoke on media transparency, Professor of Political Science and former Vice-Chancellor, Adekunle Ajasin University, Ondo State, Femi Mimiko, spoke on media and electoral disputes.
Also, the Zonal Public Relations Officer, Nigeria Police Zone 2 Command, CSP Dolapo Badmus, spoke on the safety of the media while the panel comprising the aforementioned and the President, Nigeria Guild of Editors, Ms. Funke Egbemode, and Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Dr. Qasim Akinreti, dealt with the elections generally.
In his speech, Bray said: “The United States values freedom of the press as a key component of democratic governance.
“I have been in Nigeria for nearly six years. I have been Consul General since 2015 and as CG I have visited each of the 17 states in southern Nigeria, almost all of them on multiple locations.
“I have spoken with hundreds, perhaps thousands of Nigerians about democracy, elections, and the history of Nigeria.
“These conversations have confirmed my belief that Nigeria has a vibrant democracy.
“Democratic societies are not infallible but they are accountable, and the exchange of ideas is the foundation for accountable governance.
“Peaceful and credible elections are essential to Nigeriaâ€™s continued economic, political, and social development so I am interested in your discussion today on media and the transparence of the 2019 election.
“Nigeria plays a vital role on the world stage and as the largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeriaâ€™s stability is crucial to the security and economic prosperity of the rest of the continent.
“Nigeriaâ€™s future is full of promise and opportunity. The US government is dedicated to supporting Nigerians in ensuring that the 2019 elections will be transparent, credible, and peaceful.”
On the role of journalists in the electioneering process, he said: “Before I joined the Department of State I was a reporter.
“Based on my experience, I know that as reporters and editors, each of you has an important role to play in the electoral process.
“You will foster active debate, provide investigative reporting, and serve as a forum to express different point of view.
“When people donâ€™t have the facts, they make them up and that creates unstable environments, rife with rumours, gossip and lies.
“And you, as journalists, make sure this doesnâ€™t happen, by providing information, researching, conducting interviews, and then educating the electorate.
“The people of Nigeria rely on your unbiased and accurate coverage of the campaign season and the elections. That is why your role is so important.
“As the 2019 election draws near, the US Mission supports your efforts to provide objective and balanced reporting to the Nigerian people.”
In addition to this, he said the United States has worked with Nigeria to strengthen democratic institutions for decades and will continue to do so.