Defend the Rights of Journalists – Guterres

Defend the Rights of Journalists – Guterres Urges Everyone

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on everyone to defend the rights of journalists whose efforts ‘help us to build a better world for all’. He said in his message on World Press Freedom Day presented by the Director of the UN Information Centre (UNIC) Nigeria, Mr Ronald Kayanja at the observance organised by UNIC and the Centre of Excellence, Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos on Friday, 3 May 2019 in Lagos.

The Secretary-General observed a growing number of attacks and the culture of impunity which according to UNESCO led to the death of 100 journalists and hundreds imprisoned in 2018. “When media workers are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price.” Guterres noted, “A free press is essential for peace, justice, sustainable development and human rights. No democracy is complete without access to transparent and reliable information.”

Mr Kayanja had before presenting the message of the Secretary General appealed to the Nigerian press to shun avoid reinforcing negative stereotypes about Nigeria but rather look for something good and positive to report about Nigeria. According to him, there were many rumours and unsubstantiated reports on the social media concerning the situation of things in Nigeria which unfortunately also found their way into the mainstream media. “Nigeria is a great country. Things are not as bad in Nigeria as portrayed by the Nigeria press.” He added.

The Chairman of the event, Professor Ralph Akinfeleye, called on the Nigerian Guild of Editors and the Nigerian Union of Journalists to rise up to their responsibilities, regulate their ranks and clean up the journalistic space which he observed had been contaminated. Prof Akinfeleye called for a socially responsible free press in deepening democracy and strengthening professionalism.

The Keynote Speaker and Senior Fellow, Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Dr Fassy Yusuf, called on media practitioners to eschew corruption, disinformation and misinformation. “The Nigerian media should eschew corruption, tinted and fake news and other unethical practices for it to live up to its billing as the fourth estate of the realm.” He said, “If the media is to play a pivotal role in deepening and sustaining democracy, it must be socially responsible while its freedom should be non-negotiable”.

Earlier, the HoD Mass Communication, UNILAG, Prof Abigail Ogwezzy Ndisika, had urged the media to be responsible  and patriotic in their reporting.

This year’s theme “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation” discusses current challenges faced by media in elections, along with the media’s potential in supporting peace and reconciliation processes.