By Bisade Ojoye
Nigeria Union of Journalists, Ogun State Council has called on the Federal Government to give financial assistance to media houses to assist them in making necessary information available to Nigerians at all times
In a statement signed by Comrade Soji Amosu, Chairman and Comrade Ayokunle Ewuoso, Secretary of the Union
to commemorate this year’s World Press Freedom Day said this call became imperative in view of the prevailing economic situation confronting the Nigerian Nation.
World Press Freedom Day is marked annually on the 3rd of May. The theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day: “Information as a Public Good” has been described as instructive, Germaine, and underscored the importance of cherishing information as a public good, and exploring what could be done in the production, distribution and reception of content to strengthen journalism, and to advance transparency, as well as empowerment while leaving no one behind.
The statement added, “It recognised the changing communications system that is impacting on our health, our human rights, democracies and sustainable development”.
Against this backdrop, NUJ, Ogun State Council urged Federal and State governments to create conducive and veritable environment, free from legal encumbrances, for the practice of journalism in Nigeria.
“We call on the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture to extend the same kind of financial assistance/bailout given to banks and state government to all media organisations in the country.
“Presently, media organisations in the country are going through serious financial difficulty, engendered by the negative impact of Corona virus pandemic on world economy, particularly the Nigeria monolithic economy. This financial debacle has made it very difficult for media houses to remunerate Journalists as and when due. Those which are able to pay, pay ridiculous wages.
“These are factors and many more that are hampering press freedom in Nigeria and consequently adversely buffeting the practice of Journalism in Nigeria.
The Union leaders stated that the contributions of the press to the country’s development and growth couldn’t be overemphasized. “The importance of freely accessing reliable information, particularly through journalism, has been demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic; that in times of crisis such as this, information can be a matter of life or death”.
They disclosed COVID-19 crisis has placed journalists, quality journalism and public interest at the center of global discourse, stressing that reporting on the crisis, through initiatives such as the popularization of scientific facts, the compilation and frequent updating of data, fact-checking or monitoring spending, has proved vital.
There is evidence that the covid-19 pandemic has forced the closure of some media houses in Nigeria, reporters were harassed and attacked for their reporting on the #EndSARS that followed.
“The contributions of the press to sieve verified information from the falsehoods that dominate and flood the internet cannot be overlooked.
We, therefore, call on the Central Bank of Nigeria to spearhead a financial bailout for media organisations, and extend the programme which provided the private educational institutions to pay their workers three months salaries during the lockdowns to media houses.
“We call on our employers, though we sympathize with them, to think out of the box and run Newspapers, magazines and broadcast businesses the 21st century way in order to improve their revenues as relying on advertisements and sales are not enough to adequately reward and pay Journalists commensurate remuneration”.
NUJ, Ogun State Council believed financial assistance from the Federal Government and CBN to all media houses would underscore the importance of verified, reliable information and also promote the essential role of freelance and professional Journalists in producing and disseminating true and authentic information, thereby tackling misinformation, disinformation and other harmful contents.
“We, therefore, congratulate ourselves while commemorating this year’s World Press Freedom Day.
We urge our colleagues all over the country to continue to adhere to the ethics and ethos of Journalism and best professional practice”.
This year World Press Freedom Day marks the 30th Anniversary of the UNESCO Windhoek Declaration for the Development of a Free, Independent and Pluralistic Press. That declaration led to the recognition by the UN of the World Press Freedom Day to be celebrated every 3rd of May.
They also used the occasion to call on all stakeholders in the Media industry to renew their commitment to the fundamental right to freedom of expression, to defend Media workers, and to ensure that information remain for public good.