Sweden To Nigeria: Strengthen Press Freedom, Association, Information


…As government, CSOs agree to partner

Sweden has urged the Nigerian government to strengthen freedom of the press, association, and information.

This was as the Government, Civil Society Organisations (CSOS), in Nigeria have resolved to chart a new partnership and collaboration to improve press laws and freedom in the country.

The resolution was one of the major outcomes, of a media parley organized jointly by the Norwegian and Swedish Embassies in Nigeria, in conjunction with Internews and the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), to mark the International Press Freedom Day 2024 in Nigeria.

The Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria, Svien Baera, who disclosed the recommendation by Swedish government, said the advice was given during the Universal Periodic Review, adding that the Swedish efforts are intended to promote a diversified, independent media sector, ensure access to information, and protect the freedom of expression of journalists, writers, artists, and other vulnerable groups.

According to Baera; “Human rights violations are concerning, as they underline a trend of repression in the country. And despite promises made by leaders to strengthen Press Freedom in Nigeria, experts say it is still imperilled,” he added.

The discussion which drew attendance from the House of Representatives, the CSOs community and the media, was hallmarked as the Government and the CSO community, agreed to work together in future to advance press freedom and the environment under which journalists work in Nigeria.

Hon Akintunde Rotimi, Chairman of the House of Representatives, Committee on Media and Public Affairs, double back after well expressed criticisms of CSOs approach and position on the state of press freedom in the country, and said; “going by what I am hearing at this discussion, there is a need for more openness and collaboration by the various committees of the House and CSOs to create the kind of laws and environment that advance press freedom.”

Reacting to CSOs accusation of passing “clandestine” amendments to the Social Media Act and keeping the Act “out of the radar” from CSOs scrutiny, Hon Rotimi, who refused to admit the state of press freedom was as bad as portrayed by CSOs, agreed “the process should have been more open” promising “I commit to work more closely and collaboratively with CSOs” in the future.

Earlier, Khadijah El-Usman, Senior Programs Officer, Paradigm Initiative had disagreed with Hon Rotimi that the House was open and collaborative while enacting the Social Media Act.

He said; “My own experience with working with the National Assembly has not been a nice one. Several advocacy visits to the Assembly yielded noting. It has been more of rebuff”.

Speaking in turn, Bisola Ajibola, Deputy Director, Journalism Programmes, CJID, said the parlous state of press freedom in Nigeria, is not exaggerated by the CSO.

According to him; “Between 1985 and 2023, there are about 1,145 verified press attacks, there are many others unreported in the hinterlands. Even more alarming is that there have been 20 deaths over the period”.

In his comments, Dayo Ayetan contended that reporting environment related issues in Nigeria is still a very dangerous venture, adding that journalists are forced to negotiate with all kinds of forces on ground in the trouble areas, like in the oil rich Niger Delta and bandits controlled North East.

Ayetan said; “We negotiate with these warlords and community leaders on the journalist’s safety before a journalist can enter these areas, if not its dead on arrival”.

In a presentation; “Nigeria Media Assessment” conducted by Internews, Musa Sangarie, Regional Program Manager, West Africa, listed six key challenges the assessment conducted in 2023, identified in Nigeria which included among others; regulation, security and financial difficulties.

Sangarie said the assessment also identified some critical needs of the media in Nigeria to support free, independent, and objective journalism which include digital rights, data protection, internet freedom and freedom of expression, specialized digital and physical security training among others.

Closing the media event, attended by over 50 participants, Fredrik Ahsberg, Head of Political and Trade Affairs Section, Embassy of Sweden, said press freedom, in spite of attacks on the media and existence of restricting laws has made some progress since the era of the military in government.

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