Press Freedom: NHRC calls for support for journalists

National Human Rights Commission( NHRC) has called for support to Nigerian Journalists describing them as agents change.

Executive Secretary of the commission, Tony Ojukwu,SAN, said this in a statement to mark the 2023 World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) in Abuja.

“Society should see journalists as “agents of change bearing in mind the various contributions and sacrifices they make on a daily basis to ensure the emancipation and liberation of the common man who had needlessly suffered deprivations, discrimination and other forms of human rights violations in the society,” Ojukwu said.

He commended Nigerian journalists for their critical role in advocating the realisation and enjoyment of democracy in Nigeria and elsewhere.

“Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution (As amended), empowers the Press to hold the government accountable to the people, thereby distinguishing journalists as those who perform essential duty to the nation.“Nigerian journalists should therefore be seen as patriotic citizens because their duties are provided for in the Constitution.

”Any attempt to prevent performance of their duties amounts to a breach of the Constitution and a violation of press freedom,” he said.

The theme of the 2023 World Press Freedom Day is, ‘Shaping a Future of Rights:Freedom of Expression as a Driver of all other Human Rights.’

Ojukwu described the theme as apt, as it seeks to highlight the influence of the freedom of expression on other human rights.

He commended journalists for courageously discharging their responsibilities despite occasional harassment, intimidation, and destruction of their working tools by some overzealous security agents.

“Law enforcement agencies should recognize the Press as a critical partner in the democratic process and desist from any form of confrontation. and interference with the lawful duties of journalists and other media workers or be ready to face sanctions.They should especially the Police, as matter urgency; intensify their investigations in unearthing the circumstances surrounding any attack on Nigerian journalists.

“The commission commends the federal government in its effort in 2022 which led to the emergence of Nigeria as the only African country that had been in full compliance in terms of the protection of the rights of journalists with one incident of death of a journalist recorded from infractions, as reported by the Committee for the Protection of Journalist,” he said.

According to him, the commemoration of this day is not an opportunity to apportion blame to any individual, Institution or group of persons but it is a period to reminisce the fundamental principles of press freedom.“it is a day to ponder on the state of press freedom globally, defend the Media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in their line of duty.

“As human rights defenders, the NHRC is committed to join all well-meaning stakeholders to fight for a robust civic space in Nigeria.

“To also ensure that the media were enabled to play its constitutional role as the watchdog of the society including the government”WWorldPress Freedom Day which started in 1993, and is celebrated on May 3 annually is to remind governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom.

The day is also to remind journalists of their obligation to professional ethics in the course of their duties and to ensure that civic space is not restricted considering the contribution of freedom of expression to development of our democracies all over the world and Nigeria in particular

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