UN, oth­ers urge govts to end crimes against jour­nal­ists

• 88 me­dia work­ers killed

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - MEDIA & MARKETING - By­mar­garet Mwan­tok

THE un­law­ful de­ten­tion, con­stant ha­rass­ment, threats to life and in­tim­i­da­tion me­dia prac­ti­tion­ers face across the globe is be­com­ing more wor­ri­some, and global, lo­cal groups and or­gan­i­sa­tions have called on gov­ern­ments at all lev­els to en­sure the safety of jour­nal­ists. A re­port by UNESCO shows an in­crease in the num­ber of jour­nal­ists killed around the world in the last 12 years, say­ing this is a crit­i­cal time to en­sure jour­nal­ists’ safety, as over 1,000 jour­nal­ists were killed, with only 10 per cent of those re­spon­si­ble for the killings fac­ing any trial.

While mark­ing the In­ter­na­tional Day to End Im­punity for Crimes Against Jour­nal­ists, the United Na­tions and other bod­ies charged gov­ern­ments, me­dia rights or­gan­i­sa­tions and pro­fes­sional bod­ies to en­sure there is safety for jour­nal­ists at all times.

While de­liv­er­ing the UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral, An­to­nio Guter­res’ speech at a pro­gramme or­gan­ised by Safety and Se­cu­rity Watch to com­mem­o­rate the day, Coun­try Di­rec­tor of UN of­fice, La­gos, Mr. Ron­ald Kayanja, said the UN was con­cerned about Nige­rian jour­nal­ists, as the coun­try goes into elec­tion year, and called on jour­nal­ists to de­sist from re­port­ing fake news con­sid­er­ing the coun­try’s sen­si­tive and frag­ile na­ture.

Ac­cord­ing to the UN boss, “About 88 jour­nal­ists have been killed this year so far. In just over a decade, more than 1,000 jour­nal­ists have been killed while car­ry­ing out their in­dis­pens­able work. Nine out of 10 cases are un­re­solved, with no one held ac­count­able. Fe­male jour­nal­ists are of­ten at greater risk of be­ing tar­geted, not only for their re­port­ing, but also be­cause of their gen­der, in­clud­ing through threat of sex­ual vio- lence.”

Guter­res lamented that it was ou­tra­geous and should not be­come the new nor­mal, adding, “When jour­nal­ists are tar­geted, so­ci­eties as a whole pay a price. I am deeply trou­bled by the grow­ing num­ber of at­tacks and the cul­ture of im­punity. I call on gov­ern­ments and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to pro­tect jour­nal­ists and cre­ate the con­di­tions they need to do their work.”

He com­mended jour­nal­ists for their re­silience de­spite in­tim­i­da­tion and threats and noted, ‘Their work and that of their fallen col­leagues re­mind us that truth never dies. Nei­ther must our com­mit­ment to the fun­da­men­tal right to free­dom of ex­pres­sion. Re­port­ing is not a crime. To­gether, let us stand up for jour­nal­ists, for truth and for jus­tice.”

Guest lec­turer and pro­fes­sor of School of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, La­gos State Univer­sity, Ojo, La­gos, Lai Oso, said the emer­gence of dif­fer­ent vi­o­lent groups across the world has posed a big threat not only to the lives of jour­nal­ist but ev­ery­one else. Oso lamented that gov­ern­ment’s con­stant move to con­trol the me­dia was a big chal­lenge to the pro­fes­sion, say­ing, “jour­nal­ism ex­ists with the so­ci­ety, hence its con­straints em­anate from the so­ci­ety; if they are sub­dued, there will be a lot of com­pro­mises.”

While speak­ing on ‘Safety of Jour­nal­ists and the Chal­lenge of Im­punity in Nige­ria: Les­sons and Ac­tions,’ Oso in­sisted that me­dia rights or­ga­ni­za­tions, Nige­rian Guild of Ed­i­tors (NGE), and Nige­ria Union of Jour­nal­ists (NUJ) must en­sure the safety of jour­nal­ists, not­ing, “We fail to un­der­stand that at­tack on jour­nal­ists is at­tack on our democ­racy and free­dom. The NGE and NUJ are not do­ing enough to pro­tect jour­nal­ists; there is the is­sue of poor re­mu­ner­a­tion, with salaries not be­ing paid at all. Jour­nal­ists are not able to hold gov­ern­ment ac­count­able or in­vest in in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism be­cause at the end of the day, it is not worth risk­ing their lives.”

He fur­ther lamented the in­ad­e­quacy of the se­cu­rity sys­tem as well as the na­tional se­cu­rity where law en­force­ment agents are given pow­ers to ha­rass jour­nal­ists: “not one case of jour­nal­ists killing case has been re­solved. Of course, the case of Mr. Jones Abiri’s de­ten­tion is still un­re­solved. news­pa­per’s of­fice was burnt by

and so many other cases. All me­dia work­ers are un­der siege to­day; they are un­der tre­men­dous pres­sure, and I would say it is an at­tempt by the rul­ing power to con­trol the me­dia.”

Oso ad­vised that ev­ery­one must be ed­u­cated on how to pro­tect them­selves ir­re­spec­tive of their pro­fes­sion, adding, “There is need for a re­ori­en­ta­tion of se­cu­rity agents to know the im­por­tance of jour­nal­ists to any so­ci­ety, and see the sanc­tity of life as car­di­nal. On the other hand, jour­nal­ists must al­ways ask if the story is more im­por­tant than their life.”

Nige­ria Union Jour­nal­ists, Chair­man, La­gos State Chap­ter, Dr. Qasim Ak­in­reti; Hu­man rights Lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN); Di­rec­tor of IPC, Mr. Lanre Aro­gun­dade and Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of Wole Soyinka Cen­tre for In­ves­ti­gave Jour­nal­ism, Mrs. Tun­rayo Alaka dur­ing the IPC’S com­mem­o­ra­tion of this year’s In­ter­na­tional Day to End Im­punity for Crimes against Jour­nal­ists in La­gos.

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