The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) says the press is a critical agent for the protection of democracy and development and as such must be supported to enable it to effectively discharge it’s constitutional duties as the watchdog of the society.
In a statement issued by the Executive Secretary of the commission to commemorate this year’s World Press Freedom day, it observes that Nigerian journalists fought very hard for democracy and therefore deserve better deal, unlike the current situation where many of them struggle with poor conditions of service amidst other challenges, including censorship, harassment, intimidation and in some cases, assassinations.
The Executive Secretary of the Commission, Tony Ojukwu (SAN) noted that the society should see journalists as “the oxygen of democracy and agents of change and development”.
According to Mr Ojukwu, the duty of journalists as enshrined in Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution as amended is to hold the government accountable to the people and this means they are on essential duty to serve the nation.
He said at this time when Nigeria was at the crossroad of challenges of justice, equity and fairness to stabilise the nation’s democracy, the press must defend democracy by its commitment to holding our governments accountable to the truth always no matter the difficulties of the times.
Mr Ojukwu described this year’s theme for the World Press Freedom Day, “Journalism under digital siege” as apt because it sought to bring to the fore, “the impact of the digital era on the freedom of the press, the security of journalists and access to information and privacy”.
The Chief Human Rights Officer stated that it was incontestable that the advent of the internet with the attendant boost in digital communication had benefited humanity in various ways, “but at the same time it had threatened right to privacy, since virtually nothing was hidden from the internet radar.
He therefore, urged the law enforcement agencies, including the Police to, as a matter of necessity, intensify their investigations to unravel the circumstances surrounding the death of some Nigerian journalists, including the late Vanguard newspaper journalist, Tordue Salem whose body was reportedly found in Abuja last year.