Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has charged media professionals not to be daunted in the course of discharging their constitutional duties, saying no amount of intimation should discourage the media from reporting the truth, at all times, no matter whose ox is gored.
Falana stated this in Lagos, yesterday, at the launch of a report on “Something to hide? Media freedom under siege in Nigeria” published by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
The 76-page report authored by veteran journalist, Richard Akinnola, said 36 journalists were attacked between January 2019 and July 2019, with 30 of the attacks recorded during the 2019 elections. Press Attack Tracker (PAT), a civic tech platform provided the statistics, according to SERAP.
It also claimed that 18 journalists were assaulted for covering the nationwide #EndSARS protest against police brutality in October 2020.
The report alleged that the National Assembly had considered the passage of several bills aimed to curtail freedom of expression such as the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill 2019 (Social Media Bill).
It added that the lawmakers also considered passing the National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches Bill 2019 (Hate speech Bill).
It also claimed that the National Broadcast Commission (NBC) had been wielding powers arbitrarily on broadcast stations and imposing excessive fines on them for alleged breaches.
It recommended that the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) should work closely with non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders to carry out systematic monitoring and reporting of infringement of media rights.
Falana condemned the recent sanction meted on Channels TV by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), saying such act holds no water because it does not follow due process.
“Media freedom in Nigeria was hardily fought for decades ago; we have a history, so the media must not be daunted, no matter the level of intimidation. As for the N5 million sanction against Channels TV, if Channels has paid, it should be refunded pronto and NBC should apologise to them and Nigerians at large for violating our collective rights. Besides, the NBC code allegedly amended in 2020 is illegal for obvious reasons and should be squashed.”
Dr. Rueben Abati, spokesman to former President Goodluck Jonathan, charged the media not to be complacent in the line of duty, but be thorough, assertive and independent.
He called on the APC-led Federal Government not to operate like a secret organisation, saying that hiding information or gaging the media is against the fundamental freedom and right or information and expression.
President, Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Chris Isiguzo, said the Federal Government had something to hide from Nigerians following the Amended NBC Code, attacks on the media and other ill treatments meted on the media professionals.