By our correspondent
Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Mr. Tony Ojukwu has said that Nigerian journalists deserve a better deal in the discharge of their constitutional duties.
In a statement to commemorate this year’s World Press Freedom Day, which is marked globally on May 3 every year, Ojukwu said journalists deserve a better deal than they currently have, where many of them face poor working conditions as well as censorship, harassment, intimidation, and, sometimes, assassination.
According to him, the press, which battled hard to return Nigeria to its current democratic status and continues to struggle to sustain democracy and development, has to be supported in order to successfully execute its constitutional duties as the society’s watchdog.
He reminded Nigerians to continue to see journalists as “The oxygen of democracy and agents of change and development.”
Speaking further, Ojukwu added that their constitutional duty, which is enshrined in Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution, “to hold the government accountable to the people” distinguishes them as those who perform an essential duty to the nation.
He asked law enforcement officials, particularly the police, to step up their investigations into the circumstances of the deaths of several Nigerian journalists, including Tordue Salem of the Vanguard newspaper, whose body was purportedly discovered in Abuja in 2021.
“The commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day is not an opportunity to witch-hunt any person or institution, but is a period to reminisce the fundamental principles of press freedom, gauge the state of press freedom globally, defend the Media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who are either human rights defenders in custody or captivity or have lost their lives in the line of duty,” he said.
The Executive Secretary also said the World Press Freedom Day is meant to remind governments of the importance of upholding their commitment to press freedom, as well as journalists of the importance of upholding their professional ethics, defending democracy, justice, equity, and fairness, and being committed as human rights defenders.
According to him, the year’s theme for the celebration of World Press Freedom Day, “Journalism under digital siege” is apt as it seeks to bring to the fore, “the impact of the digital era on the freedom of the press, the security of journalists and access to information and privacy”.
Mr. Ojukwu noted that while the internet and its associated surge in digital communication have unquestionably benefitted humanity in numerous ways, it has also challenged our right to privacy, because essentially nothing is concealed from the online radar.
He commended the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for championing the World Press Freedom Day Global Conference scheduled to hold between May 2 and 5, 2022 in Punta Del Este, Uruguay.
“The conference would be a forum for key players in the internet related companies, legal experts, journalists etc to discuss the challenges of digital communications, the impact on press freedom and the way forward,” he added.