The Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development, CJID, has advised the Nigerian government to respect and uphold media freedom so that journalists can work freely without molestation before, during and after the 2023 elections.
The centre added that government should ensure journalists are not assaulted or intimidated while covering the elections as was the case in the previous elections.
Head of Political Affairs at the High Commission of Canada in Nigeria, Andy Web made the call during his remarks at a media symposium tagged “Elections 2023: Security, Media and Safety,” over the weekend.
The High Commissioner while noting that some Nigerian government officials resort to authoritarian tendencies in the resolution of media-state conflicts, assured of the Canadian government’s willingness to support media freedom in Nigeria at all times.
He said: “We call on government to respect media freedom so that journalists can work freely without being molested.
“The symposium is to commemorate the international day to end impunity for crimes against journalists and is a response to the continued threats to the safety of journalists, and fears of what could emerge in the wake of the 2023 elections in the country.”
The keynote speaker, Prof Umaru Pate, the Vice Chancellor, Federal University Kashere, noted that elections in Nigeria are highly competitive and tense, regretting that journalists are always the worst hit.
He recalled that in the 2019 elections, some journalists were assaulted and detained, with 20 websites blocked amid intimidations, without any attempt to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“This will make media organisations to have self-censorship which weakens investigative journalism,” he noted.
The Vice-Chancellor regretted that most journalists are on the watchlist of security operatives during elections adding that hostile regulations, the use of DSS operatives to threaten journalists and digital surveillance should stop.
In her remarks, CJID Deputy Director, Busola Ajibola called for the review and repeal of all oppressive laws against journalists even as she said that journalists’ violation registers should be kept.
“Election periods are typically notorious for attacks on journalists and for stifling the media ecosystem in the hope of constraining the spaces of democratic accountability, human freedom and citizen’s liberties. The 2023 elections are already showing promises to that effect,” she said.
The high point of the symposium was the signing of the pact by relevant stakeholders to protect journalists ahead of and during the elections.