The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Nigeria has expressed concern over the safety and security of journalists and other persons living in Nigeria and pledged to increase its commitment and vigour to protect the rights and safety of Journalists.
Making the commitment was the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Mr. Tony Ojukwu (SAN), during a media parley with journalists on September 7, 2022 in Abuja ahead of the 2023 general elections. He noted that the safety of journalists has been an issue in the country and the world, as some journalists operate not only under difficult conditions but also threat to life, harassment and unlawful detention.
Mr. Ojukwu assured that, NHRC would stand behind any journalist incarcerated in the course of his official assignment.
Describing the press as the oxygen of democracy, the NHRC Executive Secretary said it will be difficult to inform, educate and entertain the citizens or set an agenda for the government without the intervention of the press.
The freedom of expression and the press, according to Mr. Ojukwu, is one of the hallmarks of a civilised society and described the media as, a dependable ally in the protection of human rights, propelled by the media’s avowed commitment towards human rights and humanitarian courses in the face of the daunting human rights challenges.
The NHRC boss stated that the Commission had stood behind journalists who were incarcerated in the course of carrying out their official functions and will continue to toe the line with increased vigour, given the concerns of the Commission to the security and safety of journalists and other person’s living in the country.
Mr. Ojukwu said “It cannot be gainsaid that the safety of journalists has been an issue in the country and elsewhere in the world, given that some journalists operate under difficult conditions, where freedom of expression and the media are relegated to the background.
“In such climes, the issues of censorship, harassment, unlawful detention and assassination are uncommon,” he said and urged the media to take the gospel of human rights to every nook and cranny of the country so that respect for human rights will become the norm at every level of the society.”
In his remarks, Emmanuel Ogbeche, Chairman of the FCT Chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), said, with the 2023 general elections around the corner, there is a need for the Commission to ensure the protection of the rights of media practitioners and ensure the freedom of the press and its expression in the country.
Emmanuel called on the Commission to make public its white pap r on the investigation of the issues relating to the EndSARS protests.
Jide Oyekunle, Chairman of the FCT, NUJ Correspondent Chapel, said, journalism is not a crime, it is not an opposition, but, the oxygen of democracy and positive change and development of any democratic society.
He pointed out that: “If democracy is about good governance, accountability and transparency, then press freedom should not be denied, curtailed, restricted or taken away under whatever guise.” He promised that the NUJ will always stand firm and resist any measure or action by the government and security agents that threaten the rights of any Nigeria citizen.
“Irrespective of harassment, intimidation, arrest and persecution, we will continue to uphold and protect the fundamental objectives of the directive principles of the state policy as set out in Chapter 2 of the Constitution,” he said.