…tasks journalists on facts-checking, media ethics
The U.S. Consul General, Mr John Bray, has called for more freedom for the Nigerian press to enable it carry out its “watch dog” duty for the society and holding government accountable to the people.
Bray made this plea in a keynote address at the 2017 World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) celebration, held at the Lagos television auditorium, Agidingbi, Ikeja on Wednesday.
The Renaissance reports that this theme of year’s WPFD is “Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies”.
The consul general noted that the press deserves more freedom because an unfettered press is essential for democracy to thrive.
He, however, said the United States understood that with more freedom, comes more responsibility.
He noted that advances in technology and increasing reliance on social media platforms, as sources of information, made the accuracy and objectivity of reporting, very crucial.
Bray urged journalists to check and double check facts before putting out their stories, saying accurate reporting increases their personal credibility and the reliability of the platform they report for.
“Be thorough in your research and strive to look for every side of a story before you hit send,” he said.
He remarked that the role of the press, as the government’s watchdog, was key to the system of checks and balances that is fundamental to the smooth running of every democracy.
The consul general cited the “Reporters Without Borders” as saying that more than one third of the world’s people live in countries where there is no press freedom.
“Most of them are quasi democracies, with systemic deficiencies in the electoral process, or countries where there is no system of democracy at all.
“Working under such conditions, journalists risk everything to hold their government accountable to the people.
“Before my arrival in Nigeria four years ago, I had read about the courage and sheer doggedness of the Nigerian press in the dark days of military dictatorship.
“In my time here, I have seen that you are still the voice of the forgotten.
“You have not lost your thirst for the truth or your willingness to go wherever a story leads you, thereby contributing to transparency, accountability, and good governance in your country.”
He said the United States strongly supports freedom of the press.
“We believe that an unfettered press is essential for democracy to thrive.”
The United States passed the Freedom of Information Act in July 1966. The law went into effect the following year and since then, there have been numerous amendments to strengthen it.
The Nigeria’s Freedom Information Act was passed on May 27, 2011 and has yet to be amended since then even in the face of outcries for its amendment.
Speaking on media law and ethics in the digital age, Mr Oluyomi Lords of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), argued that the failure of the nation’s media industry stemmed from the failure of the Nigerian constitution.
Lords called for the amendment of the sections 39 and 22 on the establishing the media and the role of the Press, “because they are limiting the performance of the Press”.
He expressed optimism that the amendment would make the Nigerian stronger and it would help resolve issues of litigation, defamation, remuneration and corruption.
By Miftaudeen Raji, Lagos
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