…As NUJ Chairman harps on independence of Nigeria Press Council***
Media practitioners and civil society groups on Saturday called for a more robust, free press and better protection for journalists as enshrined in the constitution.
The stakeholders which included Lagos revered lawyer, Femi Falana, Executive Director, International Press Centre (IPC), Lanre Arogundade, made the call at a gathering in Ikeja, Lagos on the “State of Media and Citizen’s Freedom in Nigeria”, even as Chairman, Lagos State Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Dr Qasim Akinreti, also stressed the need for the independence of Nigeria Press Council (NPC).
In his welcome speech, Lanre Arogundade, noted that many journalists had faced several attacks in the line of duty in recent past.
He said that some media practitioners were also facing trials on account of discharging their duties.
Mr Femi Falana, moderator of the panel of discussants, argued for the expansion of press freedom as enshrined in the constitution and other extant laws.
For Kadaria Ahmed of Daria Media, freedom of the press was not negotiable.
She, however, noted that most conversation around press freedom had been centered around the actions and inactions of the government, with little mention of the role and responsibilities of the judiciary.
She also noted that media owners were not protective enough of their staff.
Kadaria called on the media to do a soul searching and organise itself to be more formidable.
Prof. Bola Akinterinwa, a former Director General of the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), said it was embarrassing for journalists to be killed in the line of duty.
Akinterinwa noted that the undermining of press freedom was a global challenge.
He noted that the international community was not unmindful of the vibrancy of the Nigeria press.
He urged journalists in the West African region to work together in tackling the challenges of the region.
In his contribution, the Chairman, Lagos State Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Dr Qasim Akinreti called for the independence of Nigeria Press Council (NPC).
He highlighted that the constitution was clear on the role of the media in holding government accountable, decrying the excessive use of power by the political class which he posited sometimes infringe on press freedom.
“We should not allow the government to be dictating to us, instead the media should tell them what is expected of them.
“For the appointment of the Director General of NPC, it should be the responsibility of the media and not the government choosing who becomes the DG.
“The representatives of the media should be on the board of decision makers because ever since, the government has yet to allow NPC to work effectively and this has been to our detriment.
“When there are complaints about the media, there is nobody to defend the issue as against what we have in other countries,’’ he said.
Akinreti said that regulating the conduct of journalists was very important to discipline and work ethics.
“Journalism should not be for all comers, rather the responsibilities should lie with NPC to regulate that for anyone to be a journalist, such person should have the requisite certificate or school of journalism.
“Journalism should not be free for all. These are some of the things NPC should look out for.
“NPC should assist in ensuring that those that are qualified and understand what the ethics is all about are those ones recruited as journalists,’’ he said.
Akinreti advised that journalism should be made lucrative so that those that studied it would not lose interest.
“NPC should take possession of journalism and set a goal, they should also be in charge of discipline of any media house that errs on the ethics of the profession,’’ he said.
The event was put together by Falana & Falana Chambers, Nigerian Guild of Editors and Nigeria Union of Journalists, Lagos State Council.
Others included Coalition for Whistle Blowers and Press Freedom, EIE, WARDC, Institute for Media and Society, Media Rights Agenda, International Press Centre, WSCIJ, HEDA Resource Center, SERAP and Media Career Services.