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Foundation Calls For Dedicated Laws To Protect Journalists In Nigeria And Africa

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Amid incessant harassment and killings, the Africa Media  Development Foundation (AMDF) has called for dedicated laws that will protect journalists in Nigeria and other parts of Africa.

The essence of this is to make them perform their constitutionally provided responsibility. 

This was part of the nine point resolution taken at the end of the meeting recently on the 5th Bagauda Kaltho Memorial Media Lecture Series, organized by the Africa Media  Development Foundation (AMDF) to immortalize James Baguada Kaltho Nigerian journalist who disappeared between late 1996 and early 1997 because of his journalism work during the dictatorial regime of late General Sani Abacha.

Until his disappearance, Kaltho was a courageous and fearless investigative journalist.

The communique which was signed by Sola Ojo of

The Sun Newspaper,

Nigeria; Thibilisse Nkurunziza,

Shikiriza Newspaper,

Burundi and Boi Beatrice Kenneh of Freetown Media Centre, Sierra Leone, with the theme of the lecture for this year, “Press Freedom Laws and Policies in Africa: Upholding or undermining journalism practice”, was anchored by the Faculty Head, Kaduna Media Academy, Kaduna, Northwest Nigeria, Ahmed Balarabe Sa’id.

The communique also called for the provision of a safe space for journalists to access help, legal or professional support and Journalists’ capacity should be built around the issues they report.

“There is a need to strike a balance between press freedom, press regulation, and responsible press journalism if journalism should fulfill its responsibility of protecting the national interest.

“A free and responsible press is possible if self-regulation is strengthened. Need to develop and enforce a code of ethics and legal reforms that will address the ambiguity of laws”, they said. 

They further submitted that, “Journalists must work in synergy to form a formidable force in such a way that their tormentors would think about the consequences of their actions if they attempt to harass a journalist or weaponising related laws against journalists.

“There is a need for an international platform that will make lawyers available for journalists and media organisations that are being or may be persecuted unlawfully”.

Journalists who understand how press freedom could help in doing their work better, were advised to “participate in lawmaking either by becoming lawmakers or through lobbying, to review some of the existing laws being used against journalists”.

In the face of citizen journalism, media literacy should be promoted to help citizens evaluate their thoughts, ideas, knowledge, etc. before going public.

The zoom lecture put together by AMDF, a media development organization that supports media and sustainable development initiatives, had three discussants (journalists) from Nigeria, Burundi and Somalia; with participants from across Nigeria and other African countries including Ghana and Sierra Leone.

The meeting observed that in Africa, many areas of journalism have been criminalised in countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania with the adoption of cybercrime laws which have been employed by State actors to silence critical journalists and content producers.

It further observed that “several of these countries including Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and Nigeria have nearly doubled their laws on misinformation since 2016. Killers of journalists in countries like Somalia, Burundi,DR Congo and Nigeria are rarely brought to book.

“Journalists especially investigative ones in Burundi work in fear to avoid either being harassed, attacked, or jailed. As a result, Burundi has been trying to rearrange the way the media works”, whereas “press freedom is a pillar of any democratic society because it shapes public opinion thereby empowering them. It also helps put leaders in check.

“There are a lot of ambiguities in the press regulation laws (Nigerian Press Council and National Broadcasting Commission) in Nigeria, leading to the interpretation of the same laws differently”.

Accordingly, the meeting said “attacks on journalists and media organisations in Nigeria are on the increase by ways of victimisation, gadget seizure, and destruction especially during elections”, hence the safety and security of journalists are very important not only in Nigeria but across the globe.

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