- Nigeria joined the rest of the world to celebrate the 2020 World Press Freedom Day on Sunday, May 3
- The theme for this year's World Press Freedom Day is Journalism without Fear or Favour
- A solidarity message from the National Human Rights Commission hailed Nigerian journalists for their sacrifice in nation-building
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The executive secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Mr Tony Ojukwu has commended the efforts of Nigerian journalists in creating awareness and disseminating information on the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was contained in Ojukwu's statement to mark the 2020 World Press Freedom Day on Sunday, May 3, recognised annually by the United Nations.
The day is usually set aside globally to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom and evaluate press freedom around the world.
The theme for this year's World Press Freedom Day is Journalism without Fear or Favour, an idea that becomes especially significant during the COVID-19 crisis, when the press has been declared an essential service, and journalists deemed a vital part of the frontline battle against coronavirus.
Ojukwu urged journalists to continue to exercise wise discretion in disseminating accurate information about the pandemic to avoid the unnecessary panic that could result in devastating effects on the populace.
While noting that journalists deserve more protection in all ramifications during the course of their duties, the NHRC boss said: “the media plays a crucial role in the promotion of human rights in the society as they make people aware of their rights, expose violations, and focus attention on people and issues in need of human rights protection without discrimination, ensuring that no one is left behind.”
For highlighting the impact of the COVID-19 crises on poor and vulnerable populations, Ojukwu on behalf of the NHRC praised the media for their frontline advocacy roles.
His words: “We give kudos to the media for defending the rights of the vulnerable, highlighting the need for intervention in the situation of the rural poor, women and girls, persons with disabilities, internally displaced persons and the daily paid workers who form the majority of the Nigerian society.”
He further urged media practitioners in Nigeria to remain steadfast in promoting and protecting human rights, ensuring that government and security institutions are accountable to the people during the COVID-19 operations and beyond.
He called on governments at national and state levels and all non-state actors to respect the rights of journalists in accordance with sections 22 and 39 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
“It is only through the guarantee of press freedom and protection of the rights of journalists that we can truly claim to be a democratic society,” he added.
The NHRC boss called on government and media owners to use the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic to improve the climate for the practice of journalism in Nigeria, including training, protection, compensation and the deployment of modern tools.
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Meanwhile, a consortium of anti-corruption organisations has called on federal and state governments to immediately publish the names of all beneficiaries of government palliatives to ensure transparency in the exercise.
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