Press Freedom Day: NGE salutes journalists toiling under harsh economic conditions

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The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has lauded journalists working under the current harsh economic conditions in the country.

The professional body of editors and media executives in Nigeria, gave this commendation in a statement signed on Friday by its President, Mr Eze Anaba and the General Secretary, Dr Iyobosa Uwugiaren, to commemorate the 2024 World Press Freedom Day.

‘’We celebrate the courageousness and commitment of journalists across the country, who continue to risk everything to bring us the truth and reliable/credible information.

“We also acknowledge the growing threats to press freedom – from violence and censorship to disinformation and economic pressures.

‘’We pay tribute to the journalists who have lost their lives or faced persecution, and we stand in solidarity with those under threat or attack and those who continue to work under very harsh economic conditions,” the NGE said.

The forum reaffirmed that media freedom, freedom of expression and access to public information are crucial to democracy and must be at the heart of Nigerian government’s values and actions.

The NGE said it recognised the crucial role played by journalists, media workers and free/ independent media in protecting the country’s democracy and advised them not to give up, in spite of the prevailing economic challenges.

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The guild also requested the National Assembly to initiate and adopt a law to protect journalists, who speak out on matters of public interest, especially against abusive and strategic lawsuits, which are regularly initiated to silence them.

According to the  NGE, the 2024 World Press Freedom Day is dedicated to emphasising the importance of good journalism amidst the current global environmental crisis.

‘’In line with the theme of this year’s celebration, we believe that journalism and freedom of expression are crucial in the context of the current global environmental crisis.

‘’Journalism and freedom of expression help in raising public awareness about environmental issues; holding power accountable; amplifying marginalised voices; promoting transparency and accountability.

“It also help in fostering public debate/engagement, and providing a platform for solutions,” the body said

The NGE added that 2024 World Press Freedom Day provided an opportunity for every stakeholder in the media community to continue to drum it to the hearing of both state and non-state actors – about the importance of press freedom and the challenges being faced by journalists.

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The editors said that such challenges included censorship, harassment, imprisonment and violence.

The guild said that there was urgent need by the government to take deliberate and sustained action to promote press freedom and good journalism in the country.

The NGE added: ‘’The federal government will fundamentally be promoting the enabling environment for media to operate responsibly if it adopts a law to protect persons who speak out on matters of public interest against abusive lawsuits meant to silence them.

‘’The federal government should take a clue from the European Union and other democracies around the world, who have adopted similar laws to protect journalists and media houses against Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP suit).

‘’More so, there are still many obnoxious and anti-media laws in our statutory books that are targeted at journalists and media houses. The National Assembly (NASS) must take immediate step to repeal them.’’

The guild also urged government at all levels, international organisations and civil society organisation to protect and promote press freedom;.

The editors urged them to ensure safety and security for journalists/media houses; and ensure that all restrictive laws and policies targeted at the media are repealed.

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The guild said that it would continue to advocate for press freedom, freedom of expression and access to information, adding that they are crucial to good governance, democratic societies and fundamental human rights

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the World Press Freedom Day, established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993, is observed annually on May 3.

It is set aside to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, assess the state of press freedom throughout the world, defend the media from attacks on their independence, and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

The day also acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It highlights the importance of a free, independent, and pluralistic media in fostering transparency, accountability and democracy.

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