The United States Consul General, Mr. John Bray, has pledged his governmentâ€™s commitment to ensuring free, credible, peaceful and decent elections in Nigeria, come 2019.
The consul general made the remarks during the commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day organised by the Public Affairs Unit of the U.S. Consulate in Lagos Thursday.
Present at the gathering was the Managing Director of THISDAY Newspapers, Eniola Bello, among other journalists from different media houses.
Themed, â€˜Media and the Transparency of the 2019 Elections,â€™ speakers and panelists at the event spoke extensively on the safety of journalists, transparency of the media, and electoral disputes pertaining to the forthcoming elections.
While the former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, spoke on media transparency, a professor of political science and former Vice-Chancellor of the 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 on the elections generally.
In his speech, Bray said: â€œThe United States values the freedom of the press as a key component of democratic governance.
â€œI 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.
â€œI have spoken with hundreds, perhaps thousands of Nigerians about democracy, elections, and the history of Nigeria.
â€œThese conversations have confirmed my belief that Nigeria has a vibrant democracy.
â€œDemocratic societies are not infallible but they are accountable, and the exchange of ideas is the foundation for accountable governance.
â€œPeaceful and credible elections are essential to Nigeriaâ€™s continued economic, political, and social development so I am interested in your discussions today on media and the transparency of the 2019 election.
â€œNigeria 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.
â€œNigeriaâ€™s future is full of promise and opportunity. The U.S. government is dedicated to supporting Nigerians in ensuring that the 2019 elections will be transparent, credible, and peaceful.â€
On the role of journalists in the electioneering process he said: â€œBefore I joined the Department of State I was a reporter.
â€œBased on my experience, I know that as reporters and editors each of you has an important role to play in the electoral process.
â€œYou will foster active debate, provide investigative reporting, and serve as a forum to express different points of view.
â€œWhen people donâ€™t have the facts, they make them up and that creates unstable environments, rife with rumours, gossip and lies.
â€œAnd you as journalists, make sure this doesnâ€™t happen by providing information, researching, conducting interviews, and then educating the electorate.
â€œThe 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.
â€œAs the 2019 election draws near, the U.S. mission supports your efforts to provide objective and balanced reporting to the Nigerian people.â€
In addition to this, he said the U.S. has worked with Nigeria to strengthen democratic institutions for decades and will continue to do so.
He said that the US Public Affairs team in Lagos led by Darcy Zotter was putting together an election reporting training programme for 100 political reporters and editors.
â€œThe training will be held in four cities across southern Nigeria, and will be co-facilitated by Voice of Americaâ€™s Director of International Media Training and a renowned Nigerian journalism professor.
â€œThis support is designed to help the media further appreciate their huge responsibility of reporting accurately on elections and electoral processes,â€ he stated.