The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has conferred its “Defender of Press Freedom Award” on the Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Mr. Edetaen Ojo, noting that he “has spent nearly all of his professional life, spanning a period of over 30 years, as a journalist and an advocate for media freedom, freedom of expression and as a human rights defender.”
Mr. Ojo’s award was received on his behalf a glamorous awards ceremony at the Abuja Sheraton Hotel and Towers on May 5, 2018, by Mr. Lanre Arogundade, Director of the International Press Centre (IPC) in Lagos, which has Mr. Ojo as the Chair of its Board of Governors. However, the Award was again formally presented to Mr. Ojo in Lagos by the Chairman of the Lagos State Council of the NUJ, Dr. Qasim Akinreti.
Mr. Arogundade himself was one of the nine other individuals honoured with the Award at the NUJ’s “Press Freedom Awards 2018” at which other individuals and organizations were also conferred with various awards in six other categories.
Besides Mr. Ojo and Mr. Arogundade, others also conferred with the “Defender of Press Freedom Award” include Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), prominent human rights lawyer and former President of the West African Bar Association (WABA); Mr. Festus Keyamo (SAN), Director of Strategic Communications of President Buhari’s 2019 Presidential Campaign; Mr. Richard Akinnola, Director of the Media Law Centre, Founder of the Richard Akinnola Foundation; and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Socio-Economic and Accountability Project (SERAP); and Mr. Agha Ukpai Agha, Head of Environmental Biosafety at the National Biosafety Management Agency in the Federal Ministry of Environment and Vice Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Others are Chief Oliva Okpala, a veteran journalist and Senior Special Assistant on Media and Strategic Communication to the Governor of Anambra State; Mr. Waziri Mamman, an Abuja-based lawyer who has handled many cases in court on behalf of the NUJ on pro bono basis; Mr. Inuwa Bwala, a seasoned journalist who is currently publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the “National Trail” newspaper and has been a victim of numerous acts of intimidation and harassment, including various arrests and detention, in his practice of journalism; Mr. Ugochukwu Ezekiel Hanks, also an Abuja-based lawyer who has handled several cases involving journalists on pro bono basis and co-founded the Centre Against Brutality and Safety of Journalists in Africa, which renders free legal services to journalists assaulted or harassed in the course of their duties.Mr. Ojo being presented the award in Lagos by the Chairman of the Lagos State Council of the NUJ, Dr. Qasim Akinreti.
In a profile accompanying the Award, the NUJ noted that over the last two decades, Mr. Ojo “has devoted himself to the cause of media freedom in Nigeria, across West Africa and other parts of Africa and internationally”, adding that “although he is probably best known for his role is initiating and leading the campaign for the passage of the Freedom of Information Act in Nigeria since the restoration of democratic rule in the country in 1999 until the law was passed in 2011.”
Noting come of his achievements, it said: “Mr. Ojo is Chair of the Board of Directors of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), a regional media freedom and freedom of expression organization based in Ghana. He is also the Chair of the Steering Committee of the African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX), a network of freedom of expression organizations in Africa. From 2009 until 2013, he led, as its Convenor, the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), a global network of freedom of expression organizations with its Secretariat in Toronto Canada.”