President Muhammadu Buhari has described media practitioners as the eyes and ears of the world and attempt to silence it through the harassment, arrests, detention and murder of journalists, is akin to making the world go blind and deaf.
“The government of the day is not a threat to the media, and it is not about to stifle press freedom or deny anyone his or her constitutionally guaranteed rights,” he said.
The President who spoke today, Friday, at the opening of the Congress of the Federation of African Journalists hosted by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) said: “I can report to this Congress that not a single journalist is being detained or harassed in our country today.
“The media represents the eyes and ears of the world and attempt to silence it through the harassment, arrests, detention and murder of journalists, is akin to making the world go blind and deaf.”
President Buhari said that his administration regards the media as a partner in progress, and “has never contemplated harassing, not to mention killing, any journalist.”
He condemned the increased global risk to journalists in the performance of their professional duties, adding: said the risk came in the form of “harassment, arrests, detention and murder.
The President Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed: recalled that the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 72 journalists were killed globally in the year 2015, the most recent information available in that respect. Eleven of the 72 who died in that year were killed in Africa.
“The same year, out of 20 listed deadliest countries for journalists, five were from Africa – South Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and Libya. Also, 90 journalists are currently being detained in many countries.
“It is, therefore, fitting that the safety of working journalists in Africa will be of concern to your organization, the Federation of African Journalists.”
The President said that journalists were targeted not only to restrict the free flow of information, but increasingly as leverage to secure huge ransoms and political concessions through sheer violence.
He charged the Federation to work with the governments of their countries to remove the existential threats to media practitioners.
He said the Federation could also work with other organizations committed to the protection of journalists.
Such organizations according to him, include the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists and the International Press Institute, to eliminate or reduce the risks to journalists
“It is also important for media institutions to ensure the adoption of best safety protocols for their journalists. They must develop and implement procedures and tools aimed at ensuring the physical and psychological safety as well as the digital security of journalists.”
The president also noted that his Administration placed preference to security and welfare of its citizens. He declared the summit open and wished participants fruitful deliberations. [myad]