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WPFD And Press Freedom

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World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) is celebrated annually on the 3rd of May. The celebration was proclaimed in 1993 following the recommendation adopted at the 26th session of the UNESCO General Assembly conference 1991.This was in response to the call of African journalists in 1991 that produced a landmark Windhoek Declaration on media pluralism and independence.
It is a day set aside to evaluate press freedom around the world, a day to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, a day that serves as a reminder to awaken the government to its duty upholding and respecting their commitment to press freedom and also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues on press freedom, professional ethics and to defend the media from attacks.
WPFD is a day of support for the media which are targets for the remembrance and tribute for journalists who lost their lives in pursuit of news.Looking at how the Nigerian press has performed for many decades and how they have been treated, I’m not sure the press has been free in its dissemination of information.
This is because owners of media houses, both private and public, sensor most of the information to be disseminated by the reporters. Owners have control over the kind of stories that must be published or broadcast. In the case of public information managers ensure that what is made public does not go against the publishers. And, of course, no journalist can be allowed to report any news against the government. Editors as gate-keepers are there to do their job. There are restrictions to what should be published even when such report or information may be in favour of the masses, especially if it is not to the advantage of government.
In the case of private media, some are established to protect political interests while others are for profit making. Of course, they need fund to run their business. Some political groups use them against opposition so restriction is less.
The challenges journalists face, especially the women, are enormous in the course of their duties. They are often harassed if there’s no formal invitation to the place, despite the fact that they identify themselves as journalists. Meanwhile, security agents are supposed to work in harmony with journalists, they are supposed to be partners and friends.
It is expected that every media practitioner is allowed in coverage and reportage of events in the society, as watchdog of the society, provided such person has a means of identification. I recall the period of lockdown of the #ENDSARS protests, when only journalists were still performing their duties, those who worked and closed late were embarrassed even on essential duties. Some were asked to explain what they were reporting when they won’t mention that security agents were also brutalised.
Although there are some who hold journalists in high esteem that as soon as they come across the media, will pave way for them to carry out their duties. During briefings, the press is usually invited for coverage and reportage, at least, to publicise the efforts security agencies make especially in the area of crime fighting.
Harassment in any form does not deter them from doing their jobs. Journalists should not be seen as ordinary persons in the streets; they perform very important roles in the society. Some ofthem don’t get enough reward for the job they do. And once harassed, they may withdraw,bearing in mind that there is no adequate protection. So, because no protection is guaranteed, he or she becomes apprehensive. Freedom is not really there.
Recently, about nine journalists were allegedly attacked in Rivers State by suspected hoodlums when they went for a press briefing. The Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Rivers State Council, in a press release, described such attack as unfortunate, barbaric and criminal and added that under no circumstances should a journalist on legitimate duty be attacked.The statement added that the alleged attack on the journalists by hoodlums portends danger to safety and security of lives. The journalists were reportedly attacked, beaten, wounded, their personal effects carted away. It didn’t end there as two of them were detained but later released.
Speaking on a live programme on Treasure FM 98.5 in Port Harcourt, the Chairperson, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Rivers State, Susan Serekhara-Nwikhana, wondered why despite the fact that, in the Nigerian Constitution, there is the existence of protectional constitution, as stipulated in Section 39 (1), yet journalists are still maltreated as they go about their jobs.” Why is the law silent about them?” She queried.
It is pathetic to observe that journalists are owed salaries for several months, especially in the private media. How will they cope with the high standard of living? It is difficult for those who earn salary, you can imagine those who don’t take.
Serekhana-Nwikhana said there is need for both public and private media to be financially viable so that they will be able to pay journalists. The essence of viability, she said, is to avoid journalists involving in “brown envelope” journalism.  Acceptance of gratification from the unsuspecting public will lead to sentiments in course of reportage and the reporter may not be objective.
If the reporter is well remunerated, there is no doubt that you can get the best in him. Lack of proper remuneration will also lead to corruption. It is unethical to ask or receive brown envelope. But they don’t have any choice as their salaries are delayed or not even paid.
The female journalists if not well protected, will definitely be lured into danger as they carry out their duties. You discover that some reporters gate-crash, not minding whether they are invited or not, they want, at least, “media by media” for survival. They are humans who need finance for solve personal problems.
Although this contravenes the ethics of the profession. This issue of quackery in journalism profession is an issue that has to be looked into. It should not be an all-comers affair. You don’t just pick anyone to do the job, every reporter must undergo a training to qualify.
A journalist must obtain a degree in mass communication, a post-graduate diploma when coming from another discipline or, at least,national diploma in mass communication. Those who cannot pay this category of people engage quacks to work for them at cheaper stipend thereby encouraging quackery.
Actually, the celebration should not be for merry-making but it should serve as a reflection of the way the press has been treated the world over. Some journalists have been arrested, humiliated, wounded while others have lost their lives in the course of carrying out their duties.
As the world marks Press Freedom Day, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) should establish some measures that will assist reporters to carry out proper reportage.

 

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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Opinion

Peace In South East: That Soludo’s Offer

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Which reasonable person is not perturbed about the level of insecurity in the South East? Which person, which leader who means well for Nigeria would not be worried that lawlessness has been the order of the day in a section of the country for about two years now? From available records, no fewer than 37 police officers have been killed in the five states that make up the zone and over 35 police stations burnt or destroyed since 2021 when the insecurity situation in the area escalated. Just last Sunday, hoodlums reportedly burnt down the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, office in Enugu South Local Government Area, LGA, Enugu State. The gunmen also shot and killed one of the security men guarding the commission’s premises.
For people living in Enugu, Abia, Imo, Ebonyi and Anambra States, it has been a hellish period for them as they have been forced to sit at home every Monday since August 9, 2021, by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) following the arrest and imprisonment of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu. In a statement declaring the sit-at-home day, IPOB vowed to cripple the economy of the country until Kanu was freed and that is what has been seen in Igboland for about a year and half now. Not even a dying person is allowed access to the hospital on a Monday. Schools, banks, markets, offices and so on remain closed on Mondays.
Though there were stories about IPOB’s call – off of the sit-at-home order in April last year, the “ghost Monday” has not ceased to exist. Rather, a faction of the secessionist group led by one Finland-based Simeon Ekpa, has taken the “agitation” to the next level by sometimes declaring a whole week as sit-at-home and wasting innocent lives for whatever reasons within those days. A friend’s only brother was killed in Onitsha, Anambra State during one of such periods and is yet to be buried. There are also insinuations that some hoodlums have been perpetrating all manners of crime in the zone – kidnapping, killing, maiming etc. wearing the toga of IPOB and ESN. The just celebrated yuletide season was a far cry from what it used to be in the South East as many people from the region did not travel home for fear of falling victims of criminal activities perpetrated by unknown gunmen and other criminals who have taken over the land. Some who dared to travel are still narrating their ugly experiences at the hands of the criminals who abducted them.
In view of these, one had expected widespread commendations for the governor of Anambra State, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, for his efforts towards ending the insecurity in the South Eastern Region.  In a recent appeal to the federal government for the unconditional release of Kanu, who has been in detention since 2021, though the Appeal Court discharged him, Soludo said, “I am making a passionate appeal to the Federal Government to release Mazi Nnamdi Kanu unconditionally. If he cannot be released unconditionally, I want him be released to me and I will stand surety for him. We need Nnamdi Kanu in the roundtable conversation to discuss the insecurity in the South East. We must end insecurity in the South East and we need Nnamdi Kanu to be around.”
But his appeal incidentally, did not go down well with members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, who through its Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, was quick to disagree on Soludo’s appeal contending that their leader, Kanu, was discharged and acquitted by the Court of Appeal and therefore needs no surety to be granted freedom. Of a fact, the reason given by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubarkar Malami, for the continued detention of the IPOB leader is very ambiguous.  Malami had claimed that the Court of Appeal only discharged Kanu, in its judgment but did not acquit him of the charge for which he was facing trial and that new legal grounds would be explored to nail Kanu.
The federal government had since filed an appeal before the supreme court to challenge the appeal court’s judgment. It also filed an application seeking to stay the execution of the appellate court’s judgment which was granted by the court of appeal.Many Nigerians, lawyers inclusive, have not stopped frowning at the action of the AGF, terming it a violation of the rule of law. Worthy of mention is the comment of the Chairman, Board of Trustees, BoT, of International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, Intersociety, Emeka Umeagbalasi. He said, “It must be clearly and strongly stated that the only option available to Nigeria’s Attorney General as the Law Officer of Nigeria is to fully consent to the landmark judgment or go on appeal within the stipulated time frame. Consenting or not consenting to the landmark judgment is however immaterial to the order of the three Justices-led Court of Appeal.
“Should the Nigerian Government decide to head to the Supreme Court in the exercise of its right under the country’s body of laws, then Nnamdi Kanu must, first of all, be set free- the worst-case scenario is to place him in civil liberties-compliant movement surveillance if in the sincere opinion of the Nigerian State, granting him total freedom of movement, expression and association will be injurious to the pendency of the apex appeal (if any) and its final determination”. Incidentally, the federal government did not heed to the advice. Kanu is still in detention as the Supreme Court is yet to rule on the case.However, maintaining a hard stand by both IPOB and the government will only continue to prolong the carnage going on in Igboland. Going by the narrations above, IPOB may not be right in insisting that Kanu does not need a surety to be released.
What anybody who truly loves Igboland should be seeking for at the moment is an amicable resolution of Kanu’s case so that he will be released and hopefully peace will return to the  region. Of course, the return of peace to the region will not be automatic knowing that a lot of water has gone under the bridge but it will surely make a whole lot of difference.Meanwhile, it must be stated that causing chaos in the society is never a good way to register grievances against the authorities.  South East, just like people from other parts of the country,  have every right not to like the leadership style of President Muhammadu Buhari; they may not be happy with the nepotism, sectionalism, tribalism, injustice and unfairness that have characterised Buhari’s government; they may be sad about the increasing economic hardship in the country, the insensitivity of the government to the plights of the citizens, but making the region ungovernable, subjecting the people to untold hardship is never the way to go.
What will the country be like if every zone, every ethnic group that has grievances against the government takes laws into their hands? On its own part, the federal government should, in the interest of peace and security in the South East Zone and the country at large reconsider its position towards the release of the IPOB leader in accordance with the Appeal Court judgement. It does not speak well of a government not to obey court judgements as has been seen severally in the current administration. What about solving the matter politically which has been canvassed by many groups and persons.
As the founding Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Chekwas Okorie, admonished, “The time for President Muhammadu Buhari to show magnanimity and leadership in the vexed issue of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is now. “The presidenti just returned from Mauritania where he received an “African Award for Strengthening Peace’’. Let him justify the award by taking every step to ensure peace and security in the South East and other parts of the country, especially as the election dates draw near.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Profiling Youth Exco For Peaceful Co-Existence

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About three years ago, the present administration of Rivers State led by Chief Nyesom Wike initiated the policy of registration of youth organisations in the State. And the Government, through the Ministry for Youth Affairs, committed to ensuring that the  executive members and those vying for leadership positions were profiled.
The aim was to get the youth organisations free from cultism-infested leadership. It is also designed to give credibility and recognition to the youth organisations.
This idea was welcome considering the unique place youths occupy in society.
Aside the fact that the youth constitute major population group in a growing population such as Nigeria, where the population  will conservatively hit 250 million by 2030 according to demographers, the youth population is also growing geometrically like a phoenix.
The tendency of youths to be exuberant is rife and inevitable because they are adventurous, energetic and enterprising. These and other sterling qualities make some of them vulnerable to vulgarism, anti-social behaviour and flagrant criminality.
It is speculated, based on statistics reeled out by security operatives on those caught in various crimes, like stealing, robbery, prostitution, arson, that youths are predominantly the culprits or suspects.
This populace of dynamic and energetic youths cannot be led by people who are clueless and without vision. According to John Maxwell in one of his best seller books, “Leadership Gold”: Every human organisation rises and falls on leadership. The leader sets goal(s), gives direction, provides coordination and focus that fosters achievement of collective goal. It is therefore pertinent for ascension to leadership to be based on attainment of prescribed and stipulated standard of the organisation. The truth remains that nobody gives what he does not have, hence a renowned world evangelist, D. L. Moody said, “to train a child in the way he should go, parents must be in that way”. In essence, leadership must be exemplary. Those who are in the saddle of leadership should commit to and intentionally embody and live out those qualities they intend members to imbibe or cultivate.
Leadership is contagious. If a leader is bereft of sound moral qualities, there is the possibility of their followers being negatively impacted by the lifestyle of such leader. If a leader has a violent disposition they will breed followers that are correspondingly hostile, violent and brutish. Though the leader may preach peace such message will be counter-productive because it is not the product of the real speaker.
This explains why we have pockets of violence induced by cultism, inordinate ambition, rivalry, greed and selfishness among youths across the country.
The Rivers State Government and security operatives should not rest on their oars of ensuring that only youths who are free from cult affinity, drug addiction, violent tendencies and other social vices are allowed to vie for leadership position. In fact, those with known criminal antecedents lack the pedigree and needed character to lead youth. A youth leader should be level headed, articulate, visionary, motivating/inspiring, exemplary and above all, God-fearing .
The youth is transient. It is transition to adulthood and the next generation of leaders, so those who are leaders should have what it takes to lead well. Politicians should not see the youth as ready tools to achieve their selfish goal and ambition. Youths should be involved in the decision and policy making processes for adequate representation of their interest in policy and sustainable development blueprint. This is feasible when youth leaders know what is  the felt need of the people they represent. And they will not be in a frame of mind to mortgage the collective interest of the youths for penchant gratification.
More often than not, some mischievous chiefs and traditional rulers have exploited the moral weakness of some youth leaders to polarise, create disaffection and sow the seed of discord among the youths so that they can achieve their selfish goal while the youths wallow in the orgy of discord. Most youth crisis in communities that border on royalties, chieftaincy, politicians’ largesse oil firms bounties are masterminded and orchestrated by some chiefs and elites such as the Bukuma crisis of October 8, 2003 that resulted to the burning and or destruction of 31 houses and cannibalistic murder of defenceless people of the community.
Though affinity may be pluralistic, differ and relative to individuals, youths should have a collective interest and intentionally commit to philosophy and maxim: injury for one is injury for all. There should be a reasonable commitment to kill greed and selfishness among youth leaders. The sanctity of the human life should be held sacrosanct that no life should be sacrificed for interest of selfish men or women. It is speculated that more often, youths are the ones used to clear or “delete” those deemed as the human “ obstacles” to criminal elites or perpetrate elitist criminality in communities. A situation where some youths reduce themselves to killer-squad for some elites, with impunity, is repugnant to good conscience and respect for moral values.
Leadership of youth groups should not be infiltrated by criminal elements, cultists and people of queer character.
Profiling  as a pruning process and when done without fear or favour, will produce people of good character to lead youth groups. This will lead to peace and development in our society.

By: Igbiki Benibo

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Opinion

Socrates As An Idiom 

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The obtuseness and hypocrisy of humans had long been recognised as plight which no human agency or law is in a position to change. Rather, the ailments have been portrayed under various guises, especially through literature, as providing some camouflage for the accommodation of other weaknesses, with vanity as a fuelling factor. Apuleius, author of an ancient book: The Golden Ass, gave some insight into the common flaws which humans must strive to check. Socrates, an ancient philosopher whose wisdom was commended by the Delphic oracle above that of all living men in his time, was sentenced to death, as spreading anti-social philosophy. It was by the treachery and jealousy of a wicked clique in Athenian politics and judiciary that he was found guilty of corrupting young people. He died by drinking the poisonous hemlock cup, which, like crucifixion, was the form of doing away with condemned criminals and public enemies. One young man who loved Socrates and his ideas, was heard as asking: “Are you surprised that judges are corrupt?”
The truth was that the philosophy of Socrates was directed towards bridling, rather than, inflaming the passions of young persons; questioning the status-quo and established opinions and belief system, rather than embrace blind faith. Like the more recent era of The Inquisition and religious persecution or dogmatism, the judicial murder of Socrates left an indelible stain on the reputation of Athenian politics and judiciary. There grew a wide-spread conviction that force, treachery and hypocrisy were ready instruments of maintaining the status-quo. To describe Socrates as an idiom is another way of saying that power is an asset whose custody provides the due for the judicial murder of Socrates as a philosopher of human happiness and well-being. Custody of power is synonymous with maintaining the status – quo which demands that radicalism should be kept in check, even through the use of force, treachery and corrupt means. So it was that when the radical influence of the philosophy of Socrates was considered to be an affront on prevailing power structure and belief system, it became necessary to check the “dangerousness of the radical philosopher”.
There were no lack of witnesses and hired agents of prevailing power structure to testify that questioning every issue or idea and putting them to the test of verification before accepting them as true, was a dangerous philosophy. That was how the radical philosophy of Socrates became a danger to society by corrupting young persons. That old strategy of hunting and putting a security tag on radical elements in society has not stopped, neither are the motives for such sneaky surveillance always noble. Especially with regard to the hunt for and custody of power, there is no limit to what power-merchants can do to see that they are not taken by surprises, via undue radicalism. Wole Soyinka would say that: “The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny … In any people that submit willingly to the daily humiliation of fear, the man dies”. Among the antics and strategy for holding on to power are the use of force and tyranny, where money and other means fail to achieve the goal of mass submission to power. Keeping the masses in a state of ignorance helps to keep them in a state of docility, such that any radical person or group waking them from slumber, becomes a security risk.
Socrates of Athens (469-399 B.C.) was a philosopher and a radical agent of change in society, whose goal was to induce people to think and make judgements for themselves, based on personal conviction. Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany was to say many centuries after; “What Luck for rulers that men do not think.” Thus those who hustle for and hold power usually hold the opinion that “men do not think”, but can easily be swayed by material inducements, promises or threats. Thus the masses remain in bondage.Robert Ingersoll, a self-professed agnostic, in spite of his non-association with religious views of life, would say that “Free thought will give us truth. When all have the right to think and to express their thoughts, every brain will give the best it has”. From the earliest history of man, there has always been the tendency on the part of rulers in all fields of human activities, to prevent the masses from thinking for themselves and from expressing their thought freely. Thus radical agents of social change who challenge this suppression of freedom of thought and expression, have been regarded as capable of corrupting the masses, as Socrates was accused of.
After the sad death of their master and teacher, some pupils of Socrates considered it fit to preserve the cream and substance of the philosophy handed to them. One of such pupils was Plato. Because of the prejudice and tyranny of the clique and cabal that brought about the death of Socrates, Plato resorted to the use of idioms, parables and figurative styles to express the philosophy of his late teacher. One of Plato’s idioms was that humanity had reared a deadly and ambitious beast that would stop at nothing to ensure that no one is spared that is not willing to submit to it. When asked what that figurative beast was, Plato pointed a finger at his own head and said: that dangerous beast lurks within everyone, ready to destroy those who try to expose its strategies and antics. That idiomatic rendition of the philosophy of Socrates by Plato, became such an enigma that commentators on the works of Plato often skip or gloss over reference to “the dangerous beast lurking within”. Even in the modern times, little is known about the death of Socrates being an idiom for humanity: derailment!
The cup of hemlock that ended the life and teaching of Socrates of ancient Athens, is not different from the cross of crucifixion which sought to end the life and message of another “upstart in Nazareth”, about 500 years between the two events. People who take keen interest in the interpretations of idioms, parables, symbols, etc, would tell us that an ambitious, dangerous beast, has to do with the abuse and mis-use of power. Strength and power are two different resources. Late Ken Saro-Wiwa used to tell his friends that power in the hands of weak and immature people suffers abuses. When mad crowds join abusers of power, there is havoc. Leaving out the person of Socrates of ancient Athens alone, the idiom and message arising from his death, can serve as useful indicators that human beings have rarely changed over thousands of years. While many writers have pointed out, through their works, how power and positions have been abused in human history, there is hardly any indication that such abuses no longer occur. Methods and strategies may change, but the motives and key source of the venom remain enigmatic. What accounts for the obtuseness, hypocrisy, vanity and bestiality of humans?

By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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