By Omololu Ogunmade
As the media all over the world celebrate World Press Freedom Day on May 3, President Muhammadu Buhari Saturday in Abuja commended the Nigerian media “for the good work they have done, and are still doing,” as the country intensifies the fight against COVID-19.
The president, according to a statement by his media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, said the role of the press in educating and informing the public in the face of the desperation of the Coronavirus to overrun humanity could not be undermined.
“We cannot overemphasize the role of the media in keeping people informed and educated on the pernicious virus, which has no friend or foe. It simply seeks to mow down anyone and everyone in its path, and public awareness is very important, lest we become like sitting ducks.The media are doing this quite effectively,” he said.
He hailed the Nigerian media for their roles in the battle against COVID-19, charging them to remain steadfast, “till we get to safe harbour, when the world, and our country are finally free of this greatest health challenge in recent history.”
Adesina also said Buhari reflected on the theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day, tagged: “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation,” noting that Nigeria has what he described as a very unhealthy experience of disinformation, fake news and hate news, which he said were purveyed by people using the media platforms, particularly the digital variant, regretting the adverse effects of fake news in the society.
“They don’t mean well for us, and no country can afford to close its eyes to the evil disinformation can cause. In a plural polity like ours, it has the potential to rupture relationships, sow seeds of discord, and set on the path of destabilisation. When fake and hate news are added unabashedly, it can only signpost doom. I urge the Press to use the occasion of World Press Freedom Day to see how this can be vigorously tackled,” the president was also quoted.
Adesina said the president pledged to remain committed to the ideals of freedom of the press, pointing out that democracy thrives better in an atmosphere of transparency, as opposed to opacity.
“We appreciate the cooperation we have enjoyed from the media in tackling the Coronavirus, and look forward to same, post COVID-19, when all hands must be on deck to repair the damages done to our economic and social lives, “ Buhari added.