Thoughts on World Press Freedom Day – By: . .
Ibrahim Ahmad Kala, LL.M.
May 3 every year is World Press Freedom Day. This year edition was marked by the United Nations UNESCO with a theme: “Journalism under digital siege”.
According to the United Nations, World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of the General Conference of UNESCO.
Since then, May 3, the anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration, has been celebrated around the world as World Press Freedom Day.
After 30 years, the historical link established between the freedom to seek, impart and receive information for the public good remains as relevant as it was at the time of its signature. Special commemorations of the 30th anniversary are planned during the World Press Freedom Day International Conference.
May 3 reminds governments of the need to uphold their commitment to press freedom. It is also a day of reflection between media professionals on issues of press freedom and professional ethics. This is an opportunity to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom; assess the state of press freedom around the world; defend the media against attacks on their independence; and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
Consequently, the essence of a free press is no longer indisputable in any democratic configuration. It has become the hallmark of any civilized society. It has also become an important index of modern development and more desirable than ever in all societies.
A free press helps preserve individual freedom as well as the interests of minorities. The press, thanks to its unhindered access to the population, can disseminate all opinions. Thus, it is not only the government that has access to the information monopoly. Governments everywhere have often attempted to extend their influence and power.
As a result, citizens’ rights and freedoms have often been violated or suppressed. The press has always been one of the semi-official means for individuals and groups to cry out for help and attention.
A free press is also the most powerful tool in the fight to maintain freedom of expression. and expression in society. If the press is chained, of course, the right to freedom of expression of groups and individuals will suffer. The press provides the rights forum for the articulation of the views of other people and groups other than those of government.
A free press is also a useful instrument in the necessary and positive task of critiquing government programs and policies and formulating alternatives. Positive criticism, as some call it, has become a feature of the modern state. The task of leadership and ideation is no longer limited to the three branches of government.
The press rightly sees itself as the “fourth power” which has a real role to play in the art of government. Such a role for the press is fundamentally about articulating viable alternatives.
The dissemination of information to the public is also a central role of the press in society. Although the press does not create the news, it disseminates information about society, government and other societies.
The press also provides good forums or platforms for resolving grievances and misunderstandings. There are columns for the articulation of personal opinions in newspapers. Paid advertisements are also available while reactions to other points of view can also be freely expressed.
Editorial pages also frequently attempt to critically evaluate to address socio-economic and political challenges.
The press is also often at the forefront in forming public opinions and reactions. Through their training, exposure and experience, they are able to raise public awareness and shape their opinions on various issues.
As useful and desirable as freedom of the press may be in modern societies, unfortunately, loud voices have been raised from some quarters about its potential “ills”. Some felt that unbridled press freedom would lead to abuse and a wave of irresponsible journalism.
The press in some countries has also been accused of posing possible threats to national security once allowed to enjoy absolute freedom, as has the face-off between Twitter and the Nigerian government which announced the suspension of the giant. media following reports of the #EndSARS protests that nearly brought the country down.
Local media outlets such as Channels News have also had the hammer of the Nigerian Brodcasting Commission (NBC) when they transgressed and breached ‘broadcasting codes’ in their reporting and as a result were given a reasonable fine.
Likewise, Vision FM did not escape NBC sanction when premiering in one of its early Hausa shows, “Idon Mikiya”, where it appeared to analyze and question highly classified government security activities. , including appointments to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), thereby constituting a violation of the provision of Section 39(3)(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which imposes restrictions on matters concerning government security services or agencies established by law.
Different obstacles are often placed in the way of journalists – and justified by arguments of state security and fears of irresponsible behavior in our society.
Indeed, this year’s theme: “Journalism Under Digital Siege”, – where every average Android user is now a self-proclaimed journalist, calls for hindsight and circumspection. Our mainstream media should look inward to always maintain their traditional place as the fourth estate of the kingdom.
Kala Esq is the Head of Litigation Department, Gombe Court of Appeal