Ahead of the 2023 general elections, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) on Wednesday, brainstormed on the safety of journalists in the country.
Addressing participants at a media parley at the Headquarters of the NHRC, in Abuja, its Executive Secretary, Chief Tony Ojukwu (SAN) described the press as the oxygen of democracy, adding that, it will be difficult to inform, educate and entertain the citizens or set an agenda for the government without the intervention of the press.
The freedom of expression and the press, according to Ojukwu, is one of the hallmarks of a civilised society and described the media as, a dependable ally in the protection of human rights, “propelled by your avowed commitment towards human rights and humanitarian courses in the face of the daunting human rights challenges”.
The NHRC boss vowed that the commission will work with other stakeholders to ensure that the media space remains wide and secure for the practice of journalism in the country.
The NHRC boss promised that the Commission had stood behind journalists who were incarcerated in the course of their official functions and will continue to toe the line with increased vigour, given the concerns of the commission to the security and safety of journalists and other person’s living in the country.
In his words, “It cannot be gainsaid that the safety of journalists has been an issue in the country and elsewhere in the world, given that some journalists operate under difficult conditions, where freedom of expression and the media are relegated to the background.
“In such climes, the issues of censorship, harassment, unlawful detention and assassination are uncommon,” he said and urged the media to take the gospel of human rights to every nook and cranny of the country so that respect for human rights will become the norm at every level of the society.
In his remarks, the Chairman of the FCT Chapel of the NUJ, Emmanuel Ogbeche said, with the 2023 general elections around the corner, there is a need for the Commission to ensure the protection of the rights of media practitioners and ensure the freedom of the press and its expression in the country.
He called on the Commission to make public its white paper on the investigation of the issues relating to the EndSARS protests.
Also speaking, the Chairman of the FCT, NUJ Correspondent Chapel, Jide Oyekunle said, journalism is not an opposition, but the oxygen of democracy, positive change and development of any democratic society.
“If democracy is about good governance, accountability and transparency, then press freedom should not be denied, curtailed, restricted or taken away under whatever guise,” Oyekunle said and promised that the NUJ will always stand firm and resist any measure or action by the government and security agents that threaten the rights of any Nigeria citizen.
“Irrespective of harassment, intimidation, arrest and persecution, we will continue to uphold and protect the fundamental objectives of the directive principles of the state policy as set out in Chapter 2 of the Constitution,” he said.