The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has said Nigeria has a vibrant, pluralistic and free press, which would not have been possible without an enabling environment.
He said under the regime of the President, Major General Muhammad Buhari (retd.), the media will never be seen as a threat but as key partners in the progress of the country.
Mohammed said this during the UNESCO World Report on Freedom of Expression 2021/20221 at Thursday’s Regional Forum for West Africa.
He said, “The report being presented today will further provide our leaders, media administrators, practitioners, and various stakeholders in the information sector insights into the successes achieved and the multidimensional challenges to freedom of expression and media development within the context of our various legal frameworks.
“It is a well-known fact that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right enshrined in our various statutes and legal mechanisms.
“And it is also a key feature of democracy across the world. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights captures this succinctly.
“Over the years, countries have made efforts to liberalise the media landscape by making it conducive for practitioners by adopting laws in this regard. We have also seen the glaring need to protect journalists and build their capacities to conform to the ever-changing standards of practice, especially with emerging technologies and particularly social media. UNESCO has provided leadership in this regard.
“As a country, Nigeria has always championed the observance of rights of freedom of expression and the safety of Journalists. However, we have always insisted that this right that we all enjoy, especially as media practitioners, comes with a huge responsibility; a responsibility that says we must be cautious in the use of information at our disposal to avoid misinformation, fake news, and hate speech which, if not well managed, could lead to serious disaffection and chaos in the society.
“I make bold to state here that Nigeria has a vibrant, pluralistic, and free press, which would not have been possible without an enabling environment.
“I reiterated this point when I recently received the executive members of the Nigerian chapter of the International Press Institute at my office in Abuja.
“At that meeting, I restated the commitment of the present administration, led by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, that under our watch, the media will never be seen as a threat but as key partners in the progress of our dear country.
“At this juncture, please permit me to say that in Nigeria, we have made the freedom of expression, not just a guiding principle but also a key priority, just like the safety of our media practitioners.”
Lamenting the spread of misinformation and fake news, the Minister urged media houses to set up a fact-checking desk to arrest such prevalence.
He said, “It is instructive to note that the freedom of expression we enjoy comes with a huge responsibility.
“Sadly, some of our compatriots in the journalism profession take advantage of this freedom to engage in misinformation and hate speech and to spread fake news.
“That was why we launched a national campaign against fake news and hate speech in 2018, a campaign that has brought the issue to the front burner of national discourse.
“I want to urge journalists within the West African sub-region to join hands with our various to curb the activities of such journalists who taint the image and good works of those of us who desire to uphold the ethos and professionalism of this very important profession.
“As a step towards the realisation of this, I call on journalists and media houses to set up a fact-checking desk to arrest the prevalence of misinformation, fake news, and hate speech in our society.”
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