Tony Ojukwu, Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, on Monday commended the Nigerian Media for its dedication to the fight against COVID-19.
Mr Ojukwu gave the commendation in a goodwill message on the commemoration of the 2020 World Press Freedom Day, observed every year on May 3.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that World Press Freedom Day is celebrated every May 3 “and the theme for 2020 was “Journalism without fear and favour”.
“Amidst the challenges posed by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nigerian journalists are at the frontline creating awareness and disseminating information.
“This is inspite of the personal risks of exposure to the infection as well as violations of their human rights to freedom of press, health and life from state and non-state actors.
“The Media also plays a crucial role in the promotion of human rights in the society as they make people aware of their rights, expose violations, and focus attention on people and issues in need of human rights protection without discrimination, ensuring that no one is left behind.” he stated.
He urged journalists to continue to exercise wise discretion in disseminating accurate information about the pandemic to avoid unnecessary panic that could result in devastating effects on the populace.
Mr Ojukwu added that Journalists deserve more protection in all ramifications during the course of their duties.
“We give kudos to the media for defending the rights of the vulnerable, highlighting the need for intervention in the situation of the rural poor, women and girls, persons with disabilities.
“And also internally displaced persons and the daily paid workers who form the majority of the Nigerian society.”
Mr Ojukwu urged media practitioners in Nigeria to remain steadfast in promoting and protecting human rights, ensuring that government and security institutions are accountable to the people during the COVID-19 operations and beyond.
He also called on governments at national and state levels and all non-state actors to respect the rights of journalists in accordance with sections 22 and 39 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
“It is only through the guarantee of press freedom and protection of the rights of journalists that we can truly claim to be a democratic society.”
“In an age of unprecedented increase in online and other forms of news media, the media practitioners should practice their profession with responsibility by respecting the rights of other citizens,” he said.
He urged the media to avoid hate speech, fake news, misinformation and defamation which are all capable of inciting violence, promote fear and violate the human rights of others in a peaceful and egalitarian society.
Mr Ojukwu acknowledged the media supporting the Commission in its mandate, and also paid tribute to Journalists who lost their lives or suffered one form of human rights violation or the other during the course of their duties.
He therefore called on government and media owners to use the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic to improve the climate for the practice of journalism in Nigeria.
“These include training, protection, compensation and the deployment of modern tools to ensure that the Nigerian media continues to be relevant in the growth of Nigeria’s democracy and in the defence of human rights during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.” he said.