The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, has commended the Nigerian media for the effective and wide coverage of the 2015 general elections especially in educating the public which he said contributed to relatively non- violent outcomes.
The envoy said this in his remark to commemorate The World Press Freedom Day, at the US embassy in Abuja on Monday, an event which centered on discussion on the coverage of the 2015 elections.
He praised the the media for their great roles in keeping the affairs of the nations at heart, particularly in ensuring that the general public were properly informed about the technological involvement in the 2015 general elections (use of PVC, Card reader etc), which he believed, helped in ensuring the success of both the national and state elections. He further commended their efforts in ensuring that the message of peace was preached to people.
”I was also impressed with the manner in which Nigeria media took up the cause of non-violence and regularly called on candidates to publicly take what I call the non-violence pledge,” he said.
He drew attention to the U.S. Constitution, which clearly states the ”freedom of the press in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. He then added that in as much as this freedom is backed up, it should not be seen as something at one’s disposal, advising that a balanced opinion should avoid the dangers of a single source, no matter how reliable the source may be.
He said this helps to avoid misinformation of facts, which may taint the image of the press and the general public. Hence, press people should always verify information before passing them across.
Ambassador Entwistle said that the Press Freedom Day was a celebration of an important freedom for the press, as it brings into consideration, the significance of the freedom of the press and as well, ”remind the governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
He revealed that the declaration came about, following the Declaration of Windhoek, ”a statement of free principles put together by African journalists in 1991.”
Contributing in the discussion, the Managing Director Daar News Services, Mr Imoni Amarere, said that the media coverage was the most massive ever in the history of elections coverage in Nigeria essentially because it was the most closely fought election in Nigeria. He added that the media persevered more than any time before, to keep campaigns within the realm of issues stressing that the media displayed a high level of professionalism and a sense of responsibility in not causing chaos by announcing or publishing unauthorized results.
He however, pointed out that some media outfits stoked the fires of bitterness and crossed the borderline of decency with their reportage, advertorials, documentaries and articles.
He accused sections of the media of succumbing to partisanship and in some cases throwing ethics and professionalism to the winds, adding that some others succumbed to political pressure, proprietary interest and the lure of advert revenue to do some unethical things.
He noted that useful lessons were learnt from the elections stressing that it is possible for the people to wrestle power and sovereignty and hand same to to who they please.
Another resource person, Samson Itodo, who is the Head Research Policy and Advocacy of the Youth Initiative For Advocacy, Growth and Development, said the media did credibly in raising the confidence of the electorate and also commended the US envoy for his campaign of non-violence before the elections.
He however, criticized the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, for failing to regulate the hate and vitriolic speeches that dominated the airwaves stressing that the media should assist in building institutions for the interest of the people rather than the government in power.
‘It is disingenuous to accuse everyone who calls for restructuring as trying to break up the county. History tells us that that kind of cheap blackmail will not work as long as the underlying reasons for the agitations persist.’
‘The biggest challenge seems to be that we seem to be allowing moderate voices on this issue to be drowned out by the reckless utterances of a few rabble rousers on all sides who may be tools in the hands of those who do not wish this country well. These are some of the people who arrogate to themselves the toga of spokespersons of our diverse groups.’
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