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NUJ warns against crackdown on Nigerian media, journalists

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The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has warned against the upsurge of attacks on media organisations and journalists by public office holders over the publication of critical reports.

NUJ’s cautioning follows recent arrests, detentions, and release of some journalists by the Police and military authorities over “allegations of criminal defamation and cyberstalking”. An investigative report by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) also recently raised concerns over the spike in clampdown on media practitioners by the state.

NUJ’s National Secretary, Achike Chude, made the position of the journalists’ body known during an anti-corruption radio programme, Public Conscience, produced by Progressive Impact Organisation for Community Development (PRIMORG), on Wednesday in Abuja.

Chude called on federal and state governments to create an enabling environment for all Nigerians to thrive, devoid of harassment, intimidation, and repression of journalists, while urging public officeholders to follow due process in seeking redress against media reports other than suppressing and hounding journalists.

“We have a country today under security threats and all we want for things to work. We want a country that is secured because it is only in that secured environment that the journalist himself can operate in a secured manner”, he said.

Chude disclosed that Nigeria’s challenges as a democratic country reflect the level of press freedom, adding that the rising attacks on journalists have been liberalized, with the ugly incidents not only happening at the federal level but across states in the country.

“The fact that there are increasing threats on the media or the journalists in Nigeria is based on the facts, and If you look at what has happened from 1999 to date, you will see that there has been an upsurge in the attacks of journalists and what makes it even much more worrisome is that you can now talk about the liberalization of the attacks on the media”, he said.

Chude said that NUJ is committed to protecting journalists and waging a severe war against purveyors of fake news and unethical practices in the media industry.

An investigative reporter with ICIR, Ijeoma Opara called on the Bola Tinubu administration to match their promise of upholding press freedom with action, urging for a review of the ambiguities in the Cybercrime Act, which predisposes journalists to ‘undue’ arrests.

He urged governments at all levels to find ways to assist the media in discharging their duties, which has the backing of the constitution, urging “those using state powers to suppress journalists and media houses should be made to face the full weight of law if the government is ready to support press freedom”.

She called on Nigerians to speak up against the shrinking of the media and civic space as it has a ripple effect on the well-being of the citizenry.

“The Cybercrime Act of 2015, before it was amended, had been a source of concern because people had been worried about the language of the law and very recently, it was amended. Though commendable, there are still ambiguities with the language, and there is still the concern that it can be manipulated to crack down on journalists.

“While the journalist has the responsibility to report whatever is seen or witnessed bearing in mind public good, the journalist also has the responsibility to tell the truth. But we must look at Cybercrime laws, the language, and their ambiguity.

“Freedom of the press is freedom for every member of society, and I feel that both those in the corridor of power and regular Nigerians should actively be involved and call for a free press because, at the end of the day, it is for the good of everybody”, Opara said.

A reporter with Global TV, Fauziya Mohammed Lukman decried a hostile operating environment for journalists with disability at government parastatals.

Lukman, who is a Person With Disability (PWD), called on the government to intervene, stressing that PWDs in the media industry are not spared from the problem of intimidation and harassment.

“I feel the government should lay more emphasis on the fact that there are journalists who have disabilities because even with disability, you have the right to do anything you want to do

“Government should come to the aid of this individual (PWDs) because it’s not easy going out knowing fully well that you may be confronted with rejection and belittling”, Lukman lamented.

She further said: “For some reason, the press is losing its value in society. Public officials and individuals are no longer according to media people as they used to be.

“At the moment, the environment is callous for persons with a disability because unless you are working in a very highly recognized Media institution, your chances of getting invites or participating in events are minimal. So it isn’t very safe for some of the reporters.

“I went to cover an event, and I was told I wasn’t invited, but I told them I was only there for my personal goal as a journalist, and they tried to refuse access, but I stood my ground and threatened to write bad about them if they didn’t let me in, and I was allowed to cover the event”.

Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio programme PRIMORG uses to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.

The program has the support of the MacArthur Foundation.

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