By Blessing David
Executive Director of the International Press Centre IPC, Lanre Arogundande has hammered on the need for government to create an act to secure the protection of Journalists in the face of crisis and insecurity bedeviling the nation.
He made the call during his opening address at the public presentation of documentaries on attacks on Journalists and stakeholders round table protection for Journalists, in Abuja,with the theme ” Journalism Under Digital Seige”.
The ED explained that Journalists in their coverage and reportage of crisis and emergency situations, perform multiple roles including but not limited to:disseminating reliable information;providing voices for parties to the conflict; as well as helping to resolve issues during conflict; and holding duty bearers accountable, becomes vulnerable due to the lack to protect them from any form of attacks during these periods.
He said another 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 said it is not out of place for media owners to reach out to security agencies for the protection of their staffs during crisis period.
According to him, 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.
He informed that while interacting with some of the journalists assaulted during the Covid-19 lockdown and #EndSars, however,IPC 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.
He stressed that with the weighty responsibilities, journalists and other media professionals find themselves on the frontlines , they often get molested and harassed which is not the way to go in the face of sustaining our democracy.
Keynote speaker, Dr. Kole Shettima, Director,Mac Arthur Foundation, Said the ocassion calls for support for the media as their role in democracy cannot be overlooked
He expressed worry as to why many media houses collapsed during the Covid-19 especially those in rural areas as such it is important that media houses also start to come up with different business modules that can sustain the growth and not dependent on one source.
While thanking the IPC for organizing the event, he maintained that the system must create an enabling environment for Journalists to perform their duties no matter the situation as they remain a privotal use for democracy.
In his speech during the plenary sessions, President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists NUJ, Chief Chris Isiguzo, said it is sad that the Nigerian constitution does not capture the protection of Journalists which has remain a major setback to journalism practice in Nigeria.
He stated that 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.