Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja
In the face of the growing violence in Nigeria, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara has cautioned media practitioners to exercise their constitutionally preserved freedom with a sense of responsibility.
He also tasks governments at all levels to desist from impeding the media from carrying out their constitutional roles. You
Dogara made the call yesterday at a conference the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism and European Union’s Rule of Law and Anti-corruption organised to commemorate the World Press Freedom Day.
At the conference, the speaker implored media practitioners to be circumspect in the reportage of Nigeria insecurity.
He said, “In all nations of the world, the citizens appreciate the role of the press to inform, educate and entertain as well promote accountability of the Government to the people.
“The Law, in all democratic settings recognizes the watchdog role of the Press in governance, which has earned it the appellation as “The Fourth Estate of the Realm”.
“The theme of this year’s celebration is most apt as Nigeria now faces one of her 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.
“This is a major challenge 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.”
He, also, said despite the fact that some provisions of the constitution seem to offer the government some leeway to tamper with freedom of expression and press provisions already guaranteed, particularly in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom or other persons.
Dogara said while these provisions are useful tool for governments to combat terrorism, violent extremism and other sundry security challenges that may threaten the cohesion of the state, it has been used by tyrants to suppress press freedom and freedom of speech particularly during periods of emergency, insurgency and civil strife.
He however advised that “In compliance with those standards, states must set out clearly in validly enacted law any restrictions on expression and demonstrate that such restrictions are necessary and proportionate to protect a legitimate interest.
“Restrictions on freedom of expression must also respect the prohibition of discrimination, both on their face and in their application.
“Restrictions on freedom of expression must be subject to independent judicial oversight. Anywhere democracy struggles, it will be because of a weak Judiciary. A key part of any strategy to combat terrorism and violence should be to support independent media and communications diversity.”
Assessing the state of government/press relations in Nigeria under the present dispensation, Dogara stated that it is fair to say that it is anything but 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
“These attacks on the independence of the Press greatly inhibit effective media practice and does not augur well for good governance and democracy,” the speaker explained.