The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has called for more protection for journalists before, during and after elections. This was the highpoint of a statement released by the Guild on the occasion of the 2019 World Press Freedom Day.
The Guild said this year’s World Press Freedom Day with the theme: ‘Role of Media in Elections and Democracy’ provides an opportunity for stakeholders in the global democracy enterprise to re-examine the contributions of journalists to the propagation and sustenance of democracy.
The Guild specifically called on relevant authorities in Nigeria to begin to see journalists as partners in development and voice of the voiceless rather than treat them as meddlesome interlopers and enemies of the people.
Citing growing mortality among journalists including denial of their fundamental right to life in the course of discharging their duties, the Guild appealed to Nigerian security agencies to ensure the safety of all journalists especially during elections. The Guild said the media has the capacity to support peace and reconciliation processes among political actors hence should be allowed to play its constitutional role.
As is the tradition, this year’s World Press Freedom Day also examines the safety of journalists. According to the Guild, ensuring the safety of journalists is the primary way by which societies can foster the independence and freedom of the press, as crucial for democracy. This, the Guild said, will also ensure public access to information.
The Guild regretted that there is a clear and present threat to achieving that goal. The Editors’ body referenced global statistics to support its crusade for the protection of journalists.
The International Federation of Journalists noted that in 2018 alone, at least 94 journalists were killed across the world. The 2018 figure indicates an increase from the previous year which recorded 82 fatalities.
The Guild echoed the concern of the United Nations which had earlier noted that journalists were undergoing too much stress which is ultimately undermining their ability to report accurately without fear of attack.
The UN had said: “Today, the contribution of free, pluralistic, independent and safe journalism to democracy is under unprecedented stress. Also, election outcomes and their aftermath are critically affected by political discourse and communications, including the role of the media in relation to the polling process.”
The Guild condemned modern day leaders who do nothing except denounce the media as biased to the extent that factual information reported by the Press is now termed ‘fake news’ to the detriment of the journalism profession.