World Press Freedom Day: Otufodunrin charges FG on press freedom

By Abimbola Mohammed 

Lekan Otufodunrin, CEO, Media Career Development Network, has called on the Federal Government of Nigeria to allow undisrupted freedom of expression and press freedom in the nation’s media practices.

His call dovetailed with the 30th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day 2023, which has the theme: “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of Expression as a Driver for All Other Human Rights.” 3rd May is World Press Freedom Day.

In an exclusive interview with MARKETING EDGE, the veteran journalist noted that there is substantial progress towards achieving free press in Nigeria, but added that some journalists still get abused, bullied, fined and restricted by government officials and security agents while trying to carry out their duties.

His words: “I will say the Nigeria media enjoys a level of freedom but it is not as substantial as it should be. Once in a while we hear cases of abuse of freedom of the press where we have state actors like security men, government officials denying journalists their rights and restraining them. There are instances where a government agency like the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) imposes fines on radio and television stations. So, there is a level of denial of press freedom; we are not making as much substantial progress as we should have made.”

Mr. Otufodunrin highlighted the need for media professionals to remind the government on a day like this to allow the media unfettered press freedom.

“We are not asking for freedom without responsibilities but it is important that the government respect the law and understand that the freedom of the press is guaranteed by the constitution,” he said.

Commending the media professionals on their role as gatekeepers, watchdog while ensuring that governments at different levels provide enabling environment for the citizen, he said: “Media is truly the drivers of human right in the sense that if the media is as free as it should, it can hold the government accountable, promote good governance, and ensure development. It is a free media that can ask for the freedom of others, that can ask the government to account for the things that are supposed to provide for the public, demand other rights to life, living, education and many more. That is why the media is the driver but with the challenges that the media is going through increasingly they are unable to live up to expectation.”

He continued: “There are too many things that even the ordinary citizen deserves that the media is not able to advocate for them but there is no doubt that the media is truly the drivers of human rights and everything that is needed to  make it possible should be done. We live in an economy that is affecting the operation of the media, where media houses are not able to function as they should because of low patronage, these are things we need to reflect on, on a day like this. On how to ensure that the media has the capacity to drive other rights which are fundamental rights of the citizen.”

Speaking to the rise of fake and unverified news circulating on social media platforms and independent media houses, he urged citizen journalists to always run information they have by media professionals/journalists before disseminating such information to the public as they can own up when they get it wrong.

“On the proliferation of digital media and rise of digital platforms, it is worrisome. Ordinarily it is within the rights of anyone to disseminate information but the proliferation is a problem where anyone just thinks they own an independent media company without verifying the source of information they disseminate to the public.

“We should be happy that we have independent media that are not hindered by any challenge or ownership problem, but more and more we are having proliferation of organizations that are not controlled. These people are not bound by the ethics of the profession. It is not a bad thing that we should have more digital platforms but it is important that they play by the rules. In an effort to express their own freedom they shouldn’t abuse the rights of others, and I think that is very important.”

Defining the original concept of citizen journalism, Mr. Otufodunrin stated that it is a situation where the citizens have access to information which they are supposed to pass on to professional journalists to disseminate. He bemoaned that what obtains at the moment is a situation where the citizens can just decide to disseminate without any professional scrutiny.

“Media professionals are people who have a stake, who abide by the rules and can be held accountable and penalized and sued when they share untrue information. The real professionals are the ones who are conscious of engagement; understand that freedom comes with responsibility. The fact that you can share information doesn’t mean you can abuse the rights of other people,” he concluded.


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