By Obiejesi Kingsley
The European Union, EU, has charged the Nigerian government to put measures in place that will ensure freedom of the press as part of efforts to deepen the country’s democratic practice.
Head of Political, Press and Information of the EU delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Pauline Torehall, gave the charge at an event to mark the 2017 World Press Freedom Day, on Wednesday in Abuja.
Torehall, while admitting that Nigeria has a vibrant, diverse and independent media, said the government has an obligation to ensure that journalists are free to practice their profession without any form of hindrance.
She made specific reference to recent happenings across the country where journalists were killed, arrested and detained or expelled unjustly from their beats.
“Sometimes we get reports about incidents that appear to inhibit freedom in public space,” Torehall said.
“Like the recent murder of a journalist in Bayelsa State, the arrest of journalists of Premium Times, the detention of a reporter of Leadership Newspaper in Kaduna, and the expulsion of a reporter of the Punch Newspaper accredited to cover the State House.
“While some of these actions may not be initiated by the government, they negate the principle of freedom of the press and unfortunately appear to be on the rise in recent times.
“It is the primary obligation of the state to protect the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to privacy, and ensure that its legal system provides adequate and effective guarantees for these rights.”
The EU representative noted that the Union will not hesitate to follow up “keenly” any breach of freedom of expression.
“We …expect that they should be dealt with in accordance with the principles of international law.
“We are committed to respecting, protecting and promoting the freedom of opinion and expression, guided by the Treaty of the European Union, TEU, and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and in accordance with our international human rights obligations,” Torehall noted.
She noted that the EU “was in the forefront in pressing for the adoption of the Freedom of Information Act”, and urged “journalists, the civil society, bloggers and cyber activists (to) fully explore the provisions of this law to demand for more accountability and transparency in Public affairs.”
She also charged Journalists “to be careful to ensure that their statutory freedom is not lost to self-censorship.”
World Press Freedom Day was promulgated by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993 to raise awareness on the importance of governments across the world to ensure that journalists are free to carry out their responsibilities without molestation.
This year’s celebration has as its theme: Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive society.