“Freedom of expression and information are critical to fighting poverty and achieving the MDGs. The availability and accessibility of information promotes transparency, resulting in better governance and a reduction of inefficiency and corruption.”
This submission was made by Dr Rotimi Williams Olatunji, in his keynote address on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day 2014 organised by the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Lagos in collaboration with Media Awareness and Information For All Network (MAIN) and the United Nations Association of Nigeria (UNAN).
Speaking further at the event which was attended by 24 media organisations including 10 television stations, Dr Olatunji, an Associate Professor of Mass Communication, noted that free flow of information included strengthening the right to seek and receive information, and was fundamental to the success of post-2015 sustainable development agenda.
In his message on the occasion, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, called on all Governments, societies and individuals to actively defend press freedom as critical factors in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and advancing the post-2015 development agenda. ‘Freedom of expression, independent media and universal access to knowledge will fortify our efforts to achieve lasting results for people and the planet,’ he added.
Declaring the ceremony open, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Lateef Ibirogba, underscored the critical role of the press in promoting peace and development. The Commissioner who was represented by the Assistant Director and Head of Strategy, Lagos State Ministry of Information, Mrs Toro Oladapo, beseeched the press to place patriotism and professionalism at the heart of their journalistic practice.
The Senior Public Information Officer of the Centre, Envera Selimovic, in her welcome remarks, urged the Nigerian press to remain unwavering in their commitment to ethical journalism and continued support to the UN in its efforts to improving the wellbeing of the people in Nigeria and around the world.
As part of activities marking the day, the Centre organised a seminar titled, ‘Media Freedom, Peace and Development in Nigeria’ featuring three presentations by Communication and gender experts.
In his presentation on ‘Mediatising Conflict in Nigeria – A reflection’, the National Information Officer of UNIC, Oluseyi Soremekun, called on media organisations to desist from sensationalising conflict-related stories and eschew the tendency to celebrate or commercialize negative stories. ‘Sensationalising conflict-related stories,’ according to him, ‘could aggravate the crises rather than help in mitigating the crises.’ ‘The press should strive to be objective, responsible and constructive in its reportage,’ he added.
Other experts that made interventions at the seminar included Dr Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndizika of the University of Lagos; Professor Lai Oso, Dean School of Communications, Lagos State University and Chairman, Media Awareness and Information For All Network (MAIN); Dr Rotimi W. Olatunji of the Lagos State University and Mr Kabiru Alabi, Media/Arts Editor, The Guardian’ newspapers.