As campaigns have started for the 2023 general elections, it has become imperative for Media Justice Nigeria (MJN) to put the entire spectrum of political actors on notice regarding how they relate with the media.
In a statement by MJN Director, Anote Ajeluorou, the organisation urges utmost civility and charges politicians and their supporters to ensure media men and women are not hindered from doing their job of informing the electorate about the issues that matter to them, so they may be better informed to make decisions on who to cast their ballot for. This is essential in a democracy. Politicians must not be seen to jeopardise the work of journalists in whatever guise.
Also, politicians need to be reminded that they need the media to take their messages to the electorate while canvassing for votes.
This relationship should therefore be mutually reciprocal. However, politicians must also be aware that it is the duty of media men and women to look beyond the front yards of politicians, so as to expose whatever they are hiding that could hinder their effective performance in office when elected. This expose is to enable the electorate make informed decisions as to who to lead them. This onerous task must not be viewed as antagonism or witch-hunt, but as a necessary part of the journalistic ethos of holding those seeking public offices accountable even before they get into the office they seek to occupy. This is a globally sanctioned responsibility of journalists that is not peculiar to Nigeria alone.
Therefore, MJN urges politicians and their minions to keep both their front yards and backyards clean at all times, so journalists are not hounded into detention when they are exposed, as in the case of who languished in detention at the instigation of Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun state. While MJN urges journalists to always be sure of their facts before going to town, it will not tolerate politicians using their undue influence and advantage to hound media men and women into detention for doing their job.
MJN also urges the police but especially the secret police, the DSS to be circumspect and not always take sides with politicians and other ‘big men and women’ even when a court of law is yet to pronounce anyone guilty, particularly journalists. Politicians need to be reminded once again that this is a democracy and not a military era where arbitrariness was the norm. They must behave like democrats, or pretend to be even if they are not, and subject themselves to due processes of the law and act with restraint and take legal recourse when injured by a report.
MJN also sues for speedy hearing of cases and condemns what happened in the case of Hammed Olamilekan whose rights were needlessly breached. Such cases must not be allowed to drag on indefinitely with needless adjournments being granted by judges. Olamilekan’s 138 days’ detention was needless and undeserved punishment that should have been avoided. MJN will not hesitate to call out judges who behave like this in future by allowing needless adjournments in a case that should be speedily dealt with. Although Olamilekan was taken to court, but it appeared that move smacked of a kangaroo process that further breached the journalist’s right and freedom of expression.
Perhaps in future, MJN might sue for a Peace Pact to be signed between the media and politicians (political parties) in the manner politicians sign peace pacts among themselves, so as to forestall needless aggression, both physical and quasi-legal, that is usually meted out to journalists during elections. That way journalists will be better protected going forward.
MJN therefore assures all actors in the political spectrum that it will keep a watchful eye on the election campaigns and the work media men and women are doing and will not hesitate to flag any infraction on the right of journalists to carry out their legitimate duties unhindered, just as it wishes all Nigerians peaceful and smooth elections in February 2023.
About Media Justice Nigeria
Media Justice Nigeria (MJN) is a pro-media NGO with the clear mandate of protecting the rights of journalists, media practitioners and media establishments in Nigeria. This includes those in print, electronics and social media. It offers protection for the right of media practitioners (journalists) to freely practice their trade without molestation, violation or undue interference from whatever source, whether governmental, individuals or big corporations. It provides access to justice for media practitioners whose rights are being violated. The mandate of Media Justice Nigeria also includes educating the public on the important roles the media plays and how the work of journalists helps to shape the democratic process and principles of good governance in Nigeria and across the world. Another big portfolio of MJN is the empowerment of media practitioners for enhanced job performance.
Media Justice Nigeria is also a strong advocate against Fake News. With its menacing proliferation and the attendant negative ramifications on public discourse, MJN is strategically poised to use its vast resources and reach to dismantle information that smacks of fake news and its elements intended to deceive or incite the general public.