A rights group, Media Rights Agenda (MRA), on Wednesday called on the federal government to ensure adequate protection for media freedom in law and in practice.
It stated that the relentless attacks on the media over the years had also undermined the general human rights protection for all Nigerians, democracy and sustainable development in the country.
In a statement to commemorate the 2023 edition of World Press Freedom Day and the 30th anniversary of the proclamation of the day by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993, the MRA said that by strengthening the right to freedom of expression, which is a critical human right that serves as a driver for all other human rights, the government could ensure a future where all other human rights are adequately protected and respected in Nigeria.
The MRA’s programme director, Mr Ayode Longe, noted in the statement that given the enormous duty imposed on the media by the constitution, particularly section 22, which requires the media sector to ensure that the government lives up to its responsibilities to the people and to hold the government accountable, failure to provide adequate protection for the media was impeding its ability to perform these functions upon which good governance, democracy and sustainable development in Nigeria depend.
Longe said: “The clear evidence before us is that no other sector of the Nigerian society has faced such relentless attacks for decades as the media sector has had to endure. By placing the responsibility of policing a powerful institution like the government on the media without adequate or commensurate protections, the media has been made a target for attacks by all corrupt or incompetent government officials seeking to hide their misdeeds or mistakes.”
Observing that this year’s World Press Freedom Day is being commemorated with the theme “Shaping a future of rights: Freedom of Expression as a driver for all other human rights”, Mr. Longe said: “It is only in an environment where freedom of expression is adequately protected and respected that citizens can have the confidence to engage in public discourse, criticise government policies and officials, make meaningful contributions to policies, advocate for their own rights as well as the rights of others.”
The MRA also used the occasion to call on the incoming administration of president-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu to make a commitment to protect media freedom and to do so by, among other things, reviewing and amending existing laws and regulations to ensure they provide robust legal protections for freedom of expression, in conformity with international standards; taking steps to ensure the safety of journalists, offline and online; and by investigating and prosecuting attacks on journalists, and holding perpetrators accountable.