By Ese Ahwotu
A group, Friends Of Free Media, has tasked the media on defending their freedom of expression.
According to a press statement issued by the group, during a media briefing yesterday, “Freedom of expression and that of the Press are foundational to all other freedoms and an inseparable part of the collective rights that we refer to as Fundamental Human Rights as contained in Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“All lead to the 4 essential human freedoms: freedom of thought, speech, expression- association, participation and exercise of civil and Political rights everywhere in the world; freedom of religion to worship God in any person’s own way-everywhere in the world; freedom to life, from want in one’s country’s as secured by government and the fourth, which is freedom from fear.
“The 4th freedom …from fear, is today under peril as the Press itself which exercises the 4 freedoms on the peoples behalf is operating in fear.
“Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has a right to freedom of opinion and expression; through any media and regardless of frontiers. Therefore, freedom of speech and expression refer to one’s rights to articulate an opinion without any form of censorship, punishment, or hindrance”.
According to the group, Nigerian journalists have been identified by UNESCO as victims of impunity, whereby out of 245 cases of journalists killed in the course of duty between 2006 and 2009, only 9 cases had led to a conviction.
Femi Adesina, Editor-in-Chief of The Sun, who is also president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, was quoted to have said this awoke bad memories of life under military rule, when reporters were routinely hauled in for questioning over their news stories, continuing that “If we are not careful as a country, we could slide back to those dark days.”
As Sun’s Adesina posited: “Apparently, the authorities are not comfortable with our independent reportage of what is happening in the country. They seem to be losing patience with press coverage of its fight against terrorism while on the other hand the insurgents own attitude to press freedom was displayed in 2012, when they blew up the offices of ThisDay newspapers in Abuja and another in Kaduna”.
The group further said, “President Jonathan has repeatedly assured the nation of his support for freedom of the press (in 2012), while calling on its members to be “professional and accurate”, by stating that; “Under my leadership, journalists in our country will continue to fully enjoy their constitutional rights and freedom of expression”. With this hindsight we should ask ourselves, what is the state of freedom of Press expression in Nigeria today?”