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No Democracy Without Press Freedom-UNESCO, UNIC

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The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) says democracy is a shadow of itself without press freedom.
The Officer-in-Charge of UNESCO Regional Office, Abuja, Mr Philippe Delange, said this at the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day organised by UNESCO, in collaboration with UN Information Centre (UNIC), on Friday in Abuja.
The 2023 World Press Freedom Day had the theme: “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of Expression as a Driver for all Other Human Rights”.
The Tide’s source reports that World Press Freedom Day was established by the UN General Assembly to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press.
The source reports that the day is also to remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression.
The day also coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 30th anniversary of Vienna Conference Programme of Action on Human Rights.
Delange said: “Freedom of the press is the cornerstone of democratic society.
“Without a debate of ideas, without verified facts, without diversity of perspectives, democracy is a shadow of itself and World Press Freedom Day was established to remind us of this.
“For the international community, it is first and foremost a question of combating the impunity that still surround crimes of which journalists are victims, with nearly nine out of ten murders of journalists going unpunished.”
Delange also said the UN had the Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which UNESCO had been leading for ten years.
According to him, the action plan ensured that independent media can continue to exist.
“With the digital revolution, the information landscape and its modes of production and distribution have been radically disrupted, jeopardising the viability of independent professional media”, Delange said.
He, however, said thirty years after the first World Press Freedom Day, a lot had happened and lots more needed to be done as well.
The O-i-C said it was an opportunity to renew commitment within international organisations to defending journalists and ensuring press freedom.

Speaking, UN Resident Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr Matthias Schmale, said having freedom of expression and seeking information fostered intellectual growth and contribute to social and political progress.

“A free press is essential, if we want truth, justice, and accountability to flourish,”he said.

He expressed regret that press freedom remained under threat in many parts of the world, while speech was being repressed both online and offline.

According to him, truth is undermined by disinformation and hate speech, while media workers face mounting threats, including women journalists living in fear of violence in many parts of the world.

He said the day reminded all that freedom of expression enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a prerequisite for the enjoyment of all other rights.

“We all have a responsibility to support and protect those who risk their lives speaking truth to power.

“UNESCO will continue to lead UN efforts to keep media professionals safe and help them seek justice.

“I call on government, CSOs and citizens to promote and protect press freedom.

“Together, we can shape a future of rights where journalists can tell the stories that needed to be told”, he said.

Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Mr Anthony Ojukwu, said the commission was aware of several bills proposed at the National Assembly for the purpose of gagging the media.

Represented by Mrs Agharese Arese, Director, Corporate Affairs and External Linkages, Ojukwu said NHRC would continue to work with other stakeholders to ensure the right to freedom of expression.

He said the press was exercised within the ambit of the law.

“Whereas, the social and digital media have been criticised for encroaching on privacy rights and fuelled hate statements.

“We believe in the sufficiency of our laws for individuals affected to seek civil legal remedies.

“The NHRC is passionate about the protection of the rights of Nigerians which includes journalists”, he said.

The Deputy Dean, Post Graduate Studies of Baze University, Prof. Abiodun Adeniyi, said freedom was priceless while it could be denied in diverse ways.

According to Adeniyi, freedom can be denied through regulations, intimidation, harassment, denial of rights which can be politically motivated or otherwise.

He said people could engage in peaceful protests, advocasies, dialogues to fight efforts targeted at gagging the media.

Adeniyi added that freedom of expression was an integral part of human rights and a viable democracy.

Mr John Attah, Programme Director, Human Rights Journalists Network Nigeria, called on stakeholders to protect journalists while they do their jobs.

Attah also said journalists should abide by the ethics of the profession, adding that citizen journalism was important to ensure media literacy.

The day was celebrated with a panel discussion that focused on freedom of expression as a human right, gender and women in media, among other sub-topics.

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Reps Urge FG To Revisit School Feeding Programme

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The House of Representatives, yesterday, urged the Federal Government to revisit the school feeding programme, suspended over sundry controversies.
The National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme was a pilot programme launched in 2004 targeting 12 states to provide a nutritious midday meal to public primary school pupils in the country:
In 2016, the programme was relaunched nationally, targeting public primary school children using locally sourced ingredients to improve health, stimulate agricultural production, and boost smallholder farmers’ income.
Recall that President Bola Tinubu, on January 12, 2024, suspended all programmes of the National Social Investment Programme Agency for six weeks.
The four programmes administered by NSIPA are N- the Power Programme, Conditional Cash Transfer Programme, Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, and Home Grown School Feeding Programme.
Following the adoption of the motion, the House mandated its Committees on Special Duties and Finance to invite the Ministers of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Education, and Finance to revisit the program and propose solutions for its future success.”
The House, while adopting a motion on “Urgent call to revisit school feeding policy” moved by the member representing Tarauni Federal Constituency, Kano State, Mr Muktar Zakari, noted that the philosophy behind the NHGSFP is to encourage enrollment into the public primary schools, address childhood hunger pangs, and improve their ability to concentrate, learn, and increase school attendance.
The lawmaker, a member of the New Nigeria People’s Party, lamented that “The suspension of the NHGSFP by the current administration is unsettling for several reasons, namely reduced school enrollment and attendance, compromised health and cognitive development of the children, and disruption of the income of smallholder farmers.”
He also said “Addressing the programme’s challenges is crucial, but a complete suspension may cause more harm,” noting that “It is important to find alternative solutions or efficient implementation of the NHGSFP to ensure Nigerian children continue to benefit from this important initiative.”
In his words, “The cancellation of the programme is causing an upsurge in the number of out-of-school children, posing a threat to the country’s future and leading to a high rate of crimes, insecurity, and unemployment.”

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Kogi Lauds Appeal Court’s Verdict On Ododo’s Victory

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The Kogi State Government has hailed the verdict of the Appeal Court, Abuja that yesterday uAtiku hails Supreme Court judgment on LG autonomypheld the victory of the state governor, Usman Ododo.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Kingsley Fanwo, made the government’s position known in an interview with journalists shortly after the judgment was delivered in Abuja.
Fanwo described the judgment as “sound,” adding that the it represents “echoes of the indisputable victory” of the governor at the poll.
He said the governor remains unwavering in his faith in the judiciary.
The conmissioner said, “Today’s judgment represents echoes of our victory on November 11, 2023. We campaigned round the state and worked hard to reassure the people that our party is the most reliable to take the state forward.
“November 11 will continue to be remembered in Kogi as the day that Kogites across the senatorial districts united to speak with one voice, birthing a resounding victory for the incumbent governor.
“Today’s verdict has offered another great opportunity for those who lost at the poll and in the courts to join the governor in moving the state forward.”
Fanwo said the court case did not in any way slow governance down as the governor has continued to “roll up his sleeves and deliver democracy dividends to the great people of the state.
“The jubilation that greeted the verdict affirming the victory of the Chief Servant of Kogi is a demonstration of the triumph of the people’s will.”
He urged the people of the state to continue to support the governor to make the state the Confluence of Excellence.

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Insecurity: Reps Want Modern Technology Deployed In Nation’s Borders

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The House of Representatives has called on the Nigeria Customs Service to deploy modern technology to secure the nation’s borders with neighbouring countries.
The directive followed the adoption of a motion on “Need to employ the use of modern technology to secure the nation’s borders,” sponsored by the member representing Awka North/Awka South Federal Constituency, Anambra State, Obiageli Orogbu at Thursday’s plenary.
Consequently, the Reps mandated “The Nigeria Customs Service to beef up the nation’s border security with modern technological gadgets.”
It also directed its Committees on National Security and Intelligence and Customs and Excise to “Interface with the relevant agencies of the executive arm to ensure implementation and report back to the House within four weeks for further legislative action.”
Leading the debate, Orogbu said that there are over 320 illegal routes into Nigeria “That serves as horrendous channels for the influx of inadmissible aliens and goods.
“Nigeria at the moment lacks sufficient security personnel to safeguard the existing illegal routes across the borders. These unmanned routes provide avenues for insecurity, proliferation of arms, and dumping of unwholesome goods into the country;
“The porous borders have provided an impetus to the thriving drug and human trafficking routes all over the country.”
Justifying the significance of the motion, the Labour Party chieftain noted that, “Border policing has since shifted from the mundane use of only human beings to the deployment of sophisticated electronic based equipment for potency.
“The deployment of technologies like electronic sensors, video monitors, and night vision scopes to detect illegal entries has proved more effective in western countries than human security.
“Advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, (drones) and dark fighter cameras are available to further enhance border controls,” she added.

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