The Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (HAGF), Abubakar Malami, SAN, has reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to end impunity for crimes against Journalists.
Malami gave his assurance in his keynote address at an event tagged; “Policy Dialogue on Protection of Journalists in commemoration of the 2021 International Day to end impunity for crimes against Journalists in Nigeria”, organized by Federal Ministry of Justice with the support from the Managing Conflict in Nigeria (MCN) program of the British Council Tuesday 2nd November, 2021 held in Abuja.
He said, every year November 2nd is being celebrated across the globe as the United Nation’s proclaimed International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. The United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution A/RES/68/163 at its 68th session in 2013 that proclaimed the 2nd November as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (IDEI).
He expressed joy that Nigeria is no longer among the countries with impunity for crimes against Journalists. “In the last decade, before the advent of the present Administration, Nigeria ranked between 12th and 13th across the globe and used to be among top three African countries with impunity for crimes against journalists only after Somalia and South Sudan. Recent developments in Nigeria proved that the Federal Government has laudable initiatives to end impunity for crimes against Nigerian citizens”.
“This is another positive feather of development in the human right record of the Government of President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR that calls for celebration. It is a re-enactment of the best practices in the conduct of the governance which characterizes the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR.”
He added that, Federal Government recognizes the crucial role of journalists in any democratic setting also that, Journalism is next after the three arms of a democratic government which makes it the fourth estate of the realm. Hence, the journalists render essential service of the watchdog function as well as holding the government accountable.
“The provision of section 22 of the 1999 constitution as amended of Federal Republic of Nigeria underscores this fact. It provides: “the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media to, at all time, be free to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people”. He included
Malami attributed the laudable achievement recorded to the deliberate and committed efforts of the President Muhammadu Buhari led Administration through the implementation of many reforms in the Nigerian justice sector; to include increased access to justice, speedy justice dispensation, decongestion of Nigeria’s correctional centres and judicious implementation of the Criminal Justice Act and Justice Sector reforms.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria has taken steps in advancing the rule of law, application of human rights, enhancing the freedom of information and by implication freedom of the press as well as the administration of criminal justice. In addition to the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, prominent among recent legislations by the present administration included Public Interest Disclosure and Witness Protection Bill (2017), Whistle Blower Protection Policy, Open Government Partnership and the vigorous fight against corruption. In each of these legislations and policies the media and by implications journalists remain critical stakeholders “he informed.
“As the Chief-Law Officer of the Country, the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice is determined to uphold the constitutionally saddled responsibility of ensuring strict adherence to the rule of law and bringing to an end the issue of impunity for crime in all ramifications. Our records on P&ID case is a clear testimony to that fact. Hence, the need for the consolidation of the successes recorded and that no room is left in retardation or retrogression”. He assured
HAGF said, he was convinced that journalism is not a crime. Rather, there are apparent crimes committed by some people that claim to practice journalism. Journalists are not in any way targeted for witch-hunt.
He explained that Federal Government has provided an enabling environment for journalism to thrive and called on journalists to refrain from fake news, defamation, sedition, hate speech, blasphemy, incitement of inflammatory statements in their reportage that could jeopardize the Nigerians cooperate existence as a nation and hamper the peace they have been enjoying. National interest built in on corporate existence needs to bind our patriotic engagement in advancing the interest of the nation.
He urged the participants to make the best use of the opportunities provided by the Policy Dialogue.
Also speaking, the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said that journalists are indispensable to the improvement and practice of democracy as they play a very critical role in bridging the gap between the government and the governed by ensuring that relevant information is adequately communicated to the public and vice visa.
Represented by Director Public Communication and National Orientation, of the Ministry, Mr. Sunday Baba, he reiterated Federal Government’s commitment to arresting and prosecuting perpetrators of violence against journalists in the country.
The Minister added that, “the issue must be addressed decisively, any form of attack particularly against Journalists and Media workers will not only be resisted but would be investigated and culprits brought to book”.
The Acting Solicitor General of the Federation/ Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Umar E Mohammed in his welcome address explained that journalism is a profession that stands as the eyes and voice of the people. Journalist furnished citizens with the information on happening around them thereby molding opinions and shaping decisions making. As such media assignment is a crucial task.
“By reporting judiciary and justice sector, the media demonstrate that justice is served and criminals are punished. In as much as the media may expose wrong doings in many systems, effective coverage of the justice sector also helps prevent injustices by shining spotlight on the actions of judges, lawyers and other participants in the justice system”. He emphasized.
“In carrying out their professional assignments journalists do encounter one or two issues which may hamper the quality information at the doorstep of the users. The safety of our journalists is a matter of utmost importance “he explained further.
Mohammed assured the Federal Government commitment to support journalists in discharging their social and their constitutionally guaranteed responsibility through the provision of enabling atmosphere for quality journalism practice.
In a brief remark, the Senior Special Adviser to President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina assured participants that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration was keen about safety of Journalists in the country.
According to him, Journalist play critical roles in the society hence need to be protected of which the present administration is doing.
EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS / Team Leader and Head of Section Democracy, Governance and Migration, Clement Boutiller, pointed that EU acknowledges the hardwork of Journalists with factual and accurate reporting while frowning at Journalists that report fake news.
For: Deputy Director