The Nigerian Guild of Editors has declared that governments must begin to treat the Media as an ally in development and nation building, and that impunity and all forms of oppressions and molestation must henceforth stop.
This declaration made in a press statement in celebration of the World Press Freedom Day, was signed by the President and Secretary General of the Guild of Editors, Funke Egbemode and Victoria Ibanga, respectively.
The NGE said it is instructive to note that the World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference.
The objective was to raise awareness on the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the Right to Freedom of Expression, enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Since the Declaration of Windhoek, the anniversary is celebrated annually worldwide as World Press Freedom Day on May 3.
The NGE said this year’s event calls for sober reflection as it also affords us the opportunity to assess the state of press freedom, state of the media in our country and empathise and pay tribute to our colleagues who have lost their lives in the course of performing their Constitutional responsibility, as well as those in different prisons all over the world.
“We join all well-meaning organisations such as the United Nations (UN) to call on the government to create an enabling legal environment for press freedom and give special attention to the role of an independent Judiciary in ensuring legal guarantees for press freedom and the prosecution of crimes against journalists”.
“It is also important to mention that impunity and all forms of oppressions and molestation must stop. More importantly, governments must begin to treat the Media as an ally in development and nation building.
The NGE stated that the history of Nigeria cannot be written without a mention of the role the Media played in the struggle for independence, enthronement of democracy and promotion and propagation of social justice and human rights. “Having acquitted itself thus, its operators and indeed, journalists, do not deserve to be treated with anything less than respect and decorum in the course of performing their Constitutional responsibility”.
The NGE reiterates the fact that it is the responsibilities of governments and relevant institutions to protect journalists from physical harm and intimidation, while calling on governments and the political class to recognise the role of the Media in sustainable development, especially during the forthcoming elections – as a watchdog fostering transparency, accountability and the rule of law.
Taking a holistic look at the Nigerian media industry, the NGE is of the view that all is not well with the Media industry in Nigeria. “The cost of production materials is having a devastating effect on daily operations and the survival of the Media in general. This development, no doubt, has affected payment of monthly emoluments of media workers, thus creating an atmosphere of uncertainty and in effect, reducing the general morale of journalists in the country.
“While the media industry has supported all other sectors of the economy, it is left to bear the brunt of everything that has gone wrong with the economy. We are losing revenue and forced to reduce manpower.
“It is important to call the attention of all on a day like this that a nation whose economy does not and cannot support the economy of its Media industry cannot thumb its chest that its press is free. A broke Media industry has no press freedom and is, therefore, far from being free, for as long as the economic shackles are firmly in place.
The NGE meanwhile appeals to members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm to collectively play their role in the interest of the generality of Nigerians “whose trust we hold by maintaining and observing the highest professional and ethical standards in total compliance with the Code of Ethics of the Journalism profession.
“We must not allow agents of retrogression to use our platforms to preach hate and extremism under the guise of free speech.
“We call on the government and security agencies to reopen and urgently resolve all pending cases of attacks and killings of Journalists and Media workers in the country and bring perpetrators to book, to serve as deterrent to others.
The NGE condoles with the families of our colleagues who paid the supreme price in the course of serving humanity, and also celebrate all our colleagues who have continually defied the odds to shine the light into the darkest places, hold government accountable to the people and tell compelling stories about our communities and nation.
“We salute your courage”, the NGE declared.