KANO – Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has called for the protection of journalists against violence, crimes, and anything that would impede them from doing their constitutional role toward the success of the 2023 general elections.
Speaking during an occasion to mark the 2022 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists (IDEI), in Abuja yesterday INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu said that a free media might not be sufficient for democracy to survive and thrive, but it was an absolutely necessary condition.
The programme with the theme “Media, Civil Society and Violence -free Election in Nigeria” was organized by the Ministry of Justice, Kano State Government and Managing Conflict in Nigeria Programme.
The UN 68 General Assembly Session in 2013 proclaimed Nov. 2 of every year as International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists in commemoration of the assassination of two French Journalists in Mali on Nov. 2, 2013.
Yakubu, who was represented by national commissioner, Mohammed Haruna, said that according to UNESCO, between 2006 and 2020, over 1,200 journalists were killed in the course of doing their work, with at least eight out of 10 of these extra-judicial killings remaining unresolved.
“More recently, the Committee for Protection of Journalists disclosed that 16 journalists were killed so far this year, while over 290 of them were jailed last year and 65 of them went missing in action globally.
“Last year, 45 journalists were killed, according to the International Press Institute (IPI), a Geneva-based organisation of editors and journalists all over the world.”
He said that INEC as both the conductor and regulator of Nigeria’s electoral system, believes in the freedom of journalists to do their work.
“As we head towards next year’s General Election beginning on Feb. 25, it is important that everything possible is done to protect journalists from not only violence and crimes.
“It is also important that they are protected from any action that will impede them from doing their job of informing and educating the public on every aspect of the general election in particular and our democracy in general.
“Nigeria is exceptionally lucky that it is not among the countries that are notorious for intimidating and killing journalists, as is the case in several South American and Asian countries.”
Yakubu said however, that was not to say that Nigeria did not have its own fair share of threats, violence, and crimes against journalists.
He recalled the closing down of some leading media outfits by Gov. Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State in the state and killing of Mr Precious Owolabi, a Youth Corps member serving with Channels TV, while covering one of the nationwide End-SARS demonstrations, two years ago.
He, however, said that the largely free conditions in which journalists operate in Nigeria was, therefore, no reason for complacency, saying the price of liberty, it is often said, is eternal vigilance.
Yakubu said while it was important that journalists were protected from anything that makes it impossible, or even merely difficult, to do their job, they on their part should acknowledge the need for them to act responsibly in the course of doing their job.
“In this age of the so-called social media when anyone with a smartphone, and even more so, a laptop, can post news in real-time, the challenge for journalists to act responsibly is a difficult one.
“Even then, it is not impossible. As professionals trained to cover and report stories, they have a responsibility to their profession and society to confirm the accuracy of a story before they report it as news.
“They should know that most of the time people take what they read on the social media with more than a pinch of salt until they see it printed or hear it broadcast in the mainstream media.
“They should also know that it is not all news that is fit to print or broadcast. There are times when society is better served by not printing or broadcasting a story because it is more likely to damage society than help it,” he said.
Yakubu also advised that as the country celebrates this year’s International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, citizens should remember that, regardless of their profession, religion, region, or ethnicity, they were all stakeholders in the country’s peace and progress.
“To date, democracy is the best means of achieving those objectives and so, journalists and non-journalists alike, each individual or group must play its own role so that next year’s general election will yet be the best in our history and among the best in the world,” Yakubu said.
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