President Muhammadu Buhari
By Rotimi Ijikanmi
As the 2023 General Elections draw nearer, the Federal Government has reiterated that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is not and will not be a threat to the media.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed gave the reassurance on Tuesday in Abuja when a delegation from International Press Institute (IPI) Nigeria chapter, paid him a courtesy visit.
He said Nigeria had one of the most vibrant and free press in the world and the administration was not about to stifle press freedom or deny anyone his or her constitutionally-guaranteed rights.
“If anything, it is the government that is at the mercy of the media.
“After all, this must be one of the very few countries in the world where a section of the media can refuse to recognise popular sovereignty.
“How does one describe a situation in which a President who was duly elected by millions of Nigeria is wilfully stripped of that title, President, and then cheekily cloaked in the garb of a dictator by playing up his military title?
“Despite that abuse of press freedom, those doing that have continued to practice their profession without hindrance.
“Ours must also be one of the few countries in the world where a reputable medium will report fake news and, when called out, will not retract or apologise,’’ he said.
Mohammed said he was delighted that serious organisations such as IPI were taking the issues of not just press freedom but also ethics and fake news, among others very seriously.
He charged the institute to take holistic look at the issues concerning ethics, regulation, sustainability, credibility and fake news.
“For example, on the issue of ethics, is it part of the ethics of journalism for a media organisation to function like an opposition party, seeing nothing good in the government of the day and only reporting bad news?
“The last time I checked, the constitutionally-guaranteed role of the media here in Nigeria is that of a watchdog, not an opposition,’’ he said.
The minister noted that some people had misconstrued their efforts to ensure a responsible use of social media as an attempt to tamper with press freedom or threaten independent journalism.
He reassured that they did not harbour such intentions to stifle press freedom.
Mohammed commended the media organisations that had set up platforms to fact-check stories that circulate in the media space contending that “it is one sure way to contribute to the fight against fake news and misinformation.’’
The minister dismissed the reports by Reporters Without Borders which recorded Nigeria’s decline in global press freedom.
He attributed preponderance of fake news and misinformation, failure to retract them when the truth came out, misuse of social media by quacks who, turned journalists and the handiwork of some naysayers for the rating.
Mohammed therefore admonished media practitioners, particularly the traditional media not to join the bandwagon in churning out news without verification and fact-checking.
Earlier, the leader of the delegation, Mr Musikilu Mojeed, said to they were in the ministry to engage on how they could collaborate to make Nigeria a better operating environment for journalists, the media, especially as the 2023 elections season approaches.
Mojeed, the IPI Nigeria chapter, President and Editor-in-Chief of “Premium Times’’ said they were worried about the declining press freedom records of the country and ready to collaborate to make it better.
As parts of the institute’s contribution, he disclosed that they had decided to open a black book to document every individual whose action or inaction encouraged or allowed harassment of journalists and the media in the country.