World Press Freedom Day 2023


3rd May 2023

Lagos, Nigeria

IMS Calls for Protection of Journalists, Creation of an Enabling Environment, and Safeguarding of Democracy

The Institute for Media and Society, IMS, has joined the global community, especially media and expression stakeholders, in celebrating World Press Freedom Day, with a charge for a renewed commitment to the protection of Journalists, the creation of an enabling environment for journalism and freedom of expression work, and the promotion of democracy.

While IMS acknowledges that the day is set aside to highlight the importance of free and
independent media as a cornerstone of democracy and development, we see in it an opportunity to appreciate the contributions of Journalists and the media, and to seek improvement in their
work and conditions.

This year’s theme, “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of Expression as a Driver for All Other Human Rights,” according to UNESCO, signifies ‘the enabling element of freedom of expression to enjoy and protect all other human rights.

In Nigeria, the media has maintained a remarkable level of hard work and resilience, and it has played an important role in promoting transparency, accountability, and good governance. Journalists and other professionals’ have frequently exposed corruption, beamed the searchlight on human rights violations, and reported on public-interest events, issues and trends. In the cause of these constitutionally supported contributions, Journalists have faced obstacles which jeopardise their ability to do their work without fear or favour.

The obstacles to journalism have become more pronounced in recent times, especially in the electoral process. During Nigeria’s recent election,  Journalists experienced attacks in the form of physical attacks, arrests, harassment and intimidation, denial of access to election activities, among others. These were perpetrated by state and non-state actors.

There has been the dimension of government regulation. Through imposition of arbitrary
sanctions such as heavy fines, regulatory authorities have made professional work difficult for media professionals and media organisations.

What of legislation? A large number of anti-media legislations are in the books. They include old, colonial era laws such as on criminal defamation, and security legislations such as those on antiterrorism and cybercrime which are used to persecute media professionals. Laws which were enacted to establish government broadcasting outfits contains harsh censorship provisions which hamstring editorial freedom. Equally worrisome is the rash of harsh bills proposed for passage into law in the National Assembly.

Public policy development is also an area of critical concern. For a long time, there has been no visible policy document for the media and expression sector. In the absence of clear policy direction, arbitrariness and confusion rule in the making and implementation of legislations and regulations. This should not be the case.

As we mark World Press Freedom Day, IMS urges all stakeholders to recognise the essential role that a free and independent media place in fostering a well-organised society and a serious democracy.

We call on the government to: (i) Develop with stakeholders, an up-to-date, International
standard public policy for the information sector. (ii) Reform media legislations and broadcasting regulations in consonance with the direction of the Media Policy (iii) make the National Human Rights Protection Action Plan recently approved by the Federal Executive Council publicly available for citizens’ contribution and engagements. (iv) Investigate and address all pending cases on attacks on Journalists and other media professionals including those committed during the recent elections. (v) Remove all obnoxious laws such as those on sedition, criminal defamation etc. (vi) Implement the judgments of the ECOWAS court which mandated the amendments of section 24 of the Cyber Crime Act.

We salute the media stakeholders in Nigeria for the establishment of a National Media
Complaints Commission and implore them to ensure the effective management and sustainability even as we enjoin stakeholders to give maximum support to the initiative.

We call on Journalists and the media to remain resolute in performing their constitutional
assigned task of holding the government accountable to the people.

Dr. Akin Akingbulu.
Executive Director
Institute for Media and Society

For more information, please contact:
Timothy Bamidele