By Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, on Friday said that there can be no good governance in any country where press freedom is not guaranteed.
Saraki stated this in a goodwill message at a conference in Abuja to mark the 2019 World Press Freedom Day organised by the PremIum Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) and the European Union’s Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) Programme.
The theme of the conference was: “Press Freedom in Nigeria — the Rule of Law, Media and Violent Extremism.”
Saraki, who was represented by the Deputy Minority Whip of the Senate, Senator Philip Aduda, emphasised that the eighth Senate values the media as crucial partners in the quest to build a stronger and more vibrant democracy.
According to him, “We do appreciate that we cannot deliver good governance without a free press, and we are always available to work in tandem with the media to ensure a democratic society that serves us all.
“Clearly, if we truly wish to grow and preserve our democracy, we must understand that a free and pluralistic media environment that guarantees access to information is non-negotiable.
“When citizens have information, they are able to make informed choices due to the diversity of their viewpoints. When we have such a society, when citizens are not only well-informed but are free to express their valid opinions — without fear or prejudice — it is only then that we can truly say we are practising true democracy.
“This is because democracy has at its foundation the freedom of the press, which in turn promotes good governance, accountability and respect for human rights.
“The urgency of this is reflected in Nigeria’s ranking on the Global Press Freedom Index of 2019, where we are ranked 120 out of 180 countries.
“One step lower than our standing in 2018, in fact. Other pointers would include the incidence of detention of journalists in this country.”
He thanked the Chief Executive of PTCIJ, Mr. Dapo Olorunyomi, for inviting him to the event, which presented an opportunity to reaffirm the power and responsibility of the media, and to recommit to the ideals of a free and independent press.
“It also serves as an occasion to reiterate that this power of the press comes with a great responsibility: to be the watchdogs that tell the stories that protect, defend and preserve our democracy; and hold leaders to account,” Saraki further said.