Lagos, Nigeria, May 3, 2020
IMS is delighted to join the rest of the world in celebrating the World Press Freedom Day 2020 with the theme: Journalism Without Fear or Favour.
We are in a time of great complexity. The global community struggles against COVID-19 which has infected more than three million persons and claimed more than two hundred thousand lives.
Journalism finds itself in a situation where it has to provide information and education to diverse audiences in which there is limited understanding of the nature of this disease and destructive potentials. In many contexts, misinformation and disinformation are competing vigorously for the public space. This tasks the navigational competences of journalists.
Available evidence shows that journalists are doing a lot in providing accurate and timely information on the pandemic and the efforts of various national institutions in containing it.
However, the Institute for Media and Society is worried about the critical challenges that journalists in Nigeria are facing in the coverage of the pandemic. In various parts of the country, the rights of journalists have been violated in the course of performing official duties.
In some of the recent cases, a journalist was sacked as head of a state-owned newspaper in Rivers State, two journalists were ‘barred for life’ from their duty posts in Ebonyi State, while another was arrested and detained over an interview he anchored on a radio programme in AkwaIbom State.
These actions and trend are unacceptable in a constitutional democracy. It is improper that at a critical period that journalists need strong support and encouragement to cover the COVID-19 pandemic, they are being muzzled by political office holders and other vested interests.
In the full spirit of Press Freedom Day, IMS urges national institutions to carry out the following important and urgent responsibilities:
The Government (at federal and state levels) should:
i) Provide conducive environment for the media by ensuring the safety of journalists and unfettered access to information.
ii) Support the provision of insurance and protection equipment for all journalists who operate on the frontline in the coverage of Covid-19.
iii) Pay compensation to journalists whose rights have been breached.
To the Civil Society
i) Strengthen its advocacy for the freedom of the press
ii) Partner with the media to uplift the latter’s capacity in sustaining courageous journalism.
To Security agencies:
i) Orientate their personnel on maintaining a good relationship with journalists.
ii) Engage with stakeholder institutions to develop an improved relationship between the media and security personnel.
To the media:
i) Continue to provide accurate and trusted information to the public on Covid-19.
ii) Commit quality attention to the transparency and accountability of public institutions in the management of the fight against Covid -19.
iii) Prioritize attention to managing the safety of journalists on the field in the coverage of Covid-19.
Once again, IMS salutes all journalists on World Press Freedom Day for their sacrifices and urges them to stay safe.
Dr. AkinAkingbulu, Executive Director
Institute for Media and Society (IMS).
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