Documentary Attack on Journalists: Nigeria rates poorly in WPFI globally, occupying120 position in 2021 – Arogundade observes

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By Joy Odor

The Executive Director of the International Press Centre (IPC), Mr Lanre Arogundade has observed that Nigeria continued to rate poorly in the World Press Freedom Index (WPFI) with the country occupying an unenviable position of 120 in the year 2021 because of attacks on the lives of journalists.

Mr. Arogundade made the observation in his welcome address at the Public  Presentation of Documentaries on Attacks on Journalists and Roundtable on Protection of Journalists as Frontline workers titled ‘Voices From Covid-19 Frontlines ‘. The other documentary focuses on the molestation of journalists and arson attacks on media outlets during #EndSars titled: ‘Voices From #EndSars Frontlines’ to commemorate the World Press Freedom Day 2022 with the theme: “Journalists Under Digital Siege” in Abuja on Wednesday.

He informed that such has been the case that in the documentation of attacks on journalists and media outlets during the Covid-19 lockdown and the #EndSars protests by youths in the year 2020.

The IPC Executive Director noted that while interacting with some of the journalists assaulted during the Covid-19 lockdown and #EndSars  discovered that statistics alone cannot tell the full stories of their ordeal including the immediate and later effects on their physical and mental well being.

According to him, the discovery made IPC to conclude that it need to document the experiences of these journalists and other media professionals for the purpose of capturing in greater detail what really transpired and sensitise relevant stakeholders on the need to put a halt to such unwelcome trends.

“Such has been the case that in our documentation of attacks on journalists as reported during the World Press Freedom Day 2021, we provided statistics on attacks on journalists and media outlets during the Covid-19 lockdown and the #EndSars protests by youths in the year 2020.

“While interacting with some of the journalists assaulted during the Covid-19 lockdown and #EndSars, however, we discovered that statistics alone cannot tell the full stories of their ordeal including the immediate and later effects on their physical and mental well being. Neither did the figures tell the full story of their losses.

“This discovery made us to conclude that we need to document the experiences of these journalists and other media professionals for the purpose of capturing in greater detail what really transpired and sensitise relevant stakeholders on the need to put a halt to such unwelcome trends.

Mr. Arogundade lamented that the other dimension has to do with the lack of protection for journalists when by the nature of their professional calling, they become front liners during moments of national crisis or public emergency.

He was of the opinion that these situations arise and journalists brave the odds by throwing themselves into the mesh, they do so not out of undue adventurism, but because they are the societal watchdog who have the obligation to provide credible information to citizens.

According to him, journalists and other media professionals also do so because they need to gather information which the government can rely upon to make desired interventions to resolve the crisis or bring the emergency under control.

IPC Executive Director commended the courage of the journalists who were affected and who have decided not to keep silent in the face of tyranny, and who commendably, have opted to tell their stories for the Nigerian public and the global freedom of expression community to have a deeper insight into the landmines they stepped on with dire consequences; and which still lay on the path of journalists in the course of legitimate duty.

“Furthermore, journalists and other media professionals take such actions because they want to observe and report on the management by state institutions in line with the constitutional obligation to monitor governance and hold government accountable to the people.

“The summary is that in their coverage and reportage of crisis and emergency situations, journalists and other media professionals perform multiple roles or functions including but not limited to:
Disseminating reliable information;
Providing voices for parties to the conflict;
Helping to resolve issues in the conflict; and holding duty bearers accountable.

“Unfortunately despite these weighty responsibilities, journalists and other media professionals who find themselves on the frontlines get molested and harassed.

“Such has been the case that in our documentation of attacks on journalists as reported during the World Press Freedom Day 2021, we provided statistics on attacks on journalists and media outlets during the Covid-19 lockdown and the #EndSars protests by youths in the year 2020.

“Those statistics and others emanating from other incidents demonstrate why Nigeria continues to rate poorly in the World Press Freedom Index, with the country occupying an unenviable position of 120 in the year 2021, thus suggesting that some of the worst violations of journalists and media rights take place here.

“While interacting with some of the journalists assaulted during the Covid-19 lockdown and #EndSars, however, we discovered that statistics alone cannot tell the full stories of their ordeal including the immediate and later effects on their physical and mental well being. Neither did the figures tell the full story of their losses.

“This discovery made us to conclude that we need to document the experiences of these journalists and other media professionals for the purpose of capturing in greater detail what really transpired and sensitise relevant stakeholders on the need to put a halt to such unwelcome trends.

“We are therefore gathered for the public presentation of a documentary, and a publication on attacks on journalists and other media professionals and workers during the Covid-19 lockdown titled ‘Voices From Covid-19 Frontlines ‘. The other documentary focuses on the molestation of journalists and arson attacks on media outlets during #EndSars and it is titled: ‘Voices From #EndSars Frontlines’.

“IPC salutes the courage of the journalists who were affected and who have decided not to keep silent in the face of tyranny, and who commendably, have opted to tell their stories for the Nigerian public and the global freedom of expression community to have a deeper insight into the landmines they stepped on with dire consequences; and which still lay on the path of journalists in the course of legitimate duty.

“We appreciate and commend their bravery in going to what can be likened to the war fronts to bring information to the people. It is hoped that by speaking out loudly and boldly, they would be able to get the desired justice. Some of these journalists are here and may I at this juncture request that we appreciate them as I recognise them.

“Our objective of revisiting the past, is to draw necessary lessons to avoid a repeat and chart a better course for journalism in Nigeria. Consequently, beyond the airing of the documentaries, we are also gathered for a stimulating roundtable discussion on protection for journalists as frontline workers during crisis and emergency periods.

“It is a great privilege that we have in the hall important stakeholders concerned about journalism advancement and safety of journalists, who have agreed to share their perspectives and thoughts on the subject matter.

“We are gladdened by your acceptance of our invitation and I know we will benefit immensely from your wealth of diverse resources and experiences. Through them we may be able to attain the objective of developing mechanisms for the protection of journalists during crisis situations.

“Our keynote speaker has always shown concern about matters of media protection and civic rights. Dr. Kole Shettima, Director of MacArthur Foundation, who needs no further introduction, has despite his busy schedule agreed to set the tone for our discussions today. We thank him for coming.

“Permit me to extend our heart of gratitude to the International Freedom of Exchange (IFEX), the Shehu Musa Yar’adua Foundation, Ford Foundation, Luminate and OSIWA for providing IPC with the resources that have made the documentations and this event possible” he ended.

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