Media executives have called on stakeholders to create a conducive atmosphere for the media to effectively cover the 2023 general elections by continuing to provide normative guidance and technical support to journalists ahead of the 2023 elections, organising training on safety for journalists, equipping journalists with tools of self-defence, providing insurance coverage for journalists who are sent to cover elections, and ensuring that there is an emergency plan to evacuate journalists from areas experiencing violence.
The media executives made the call at a one-day stakeholder consultative forum in Lagos, to develop a National Policy for safeguarding press freedom and the safety of journalists, organised by the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), in partnership with the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives.
Participants at the stakeholders’ forum were made up of media managers and executives from print, broadcast and online media as well as media development organisations.
They noted with alarm an increasing trend in Strategic Litigation against Public Participation (SLAPP) suits against the media, intended to burden them till they abandon their duty of holding power to account, thereby weakening the independent operation of the media in Nigeria.
They, however, reaffirmed their unified, continuing commitment to press freedom and the safety of journalists, by developing a national policy for safeguarding press freedom and ensuring the safety of journalists.
The media executives pointed out, ahead of the 2023 general elections, that the issue of the safety of journalists is an emergency that should be on the front burner of national discourse.
Recognising the wide-ranging health challenges, including injuries, illnesses, and deaths
resulting from physical attacks and psychological stress on journalists in the course of their
work, they reaffirmed their unified, continuing commitment to press freedom and the safety of journalists, and the need to develop a national policy for safeguarding press freedom and ensuring the safety of journalists.
They expressed concern about the reluctance of journalists and media organisations, to seek
redress in court for human rights violations perpetrated against them, observing that most journalists give up, even with legal support made available to them.
They identified the trend of attacks on journalists to include: arrests, detention, denial of access to information, censorship, hostile regulations like the Cybercrime Act 2015, cyberbullying, the use of state security to threaten newsrooms, slap suits, office raids, equipment seizure and damage, digital surveillance and economic challenges.
Participants also urged stakeholders to, among other things, advocate for a review/repeal of all repressive provisions in all of our relevant laws/policies, and to address the issue of press freedom as the core of our political, economic, and development agenda. They listed some of these laws to include the Cybercrime and Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, section 17 of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges Act) 2017, Section 22 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, (as amended) and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act.
The media executives urged stakeholders to organise capacity-building workshops for journalists on media laws, and ensure the transfer of knowledge between generations through mentorship, saying young journalists need to know that they are not celebrities as too many times, they put their lives at risk by behaving like celebrities.