The Federal Government, through the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has kicked against an annual report placing Nigeria as a country not conducive for the practice of journalism.
The Minister rejected the report and recalled how a section of the media has refused to recognize popular sovereignty by stripping him of the title ‘President’ and then presenting him as a dictator.
Recall that a section of the Nigerian media has chosen to address the President as Major General Mohammed Buhari (retd) for some reasons.
Mohammed said, “Despite that abuse of press freedom, those doing that have continued to practice their profession without hindrance.”
“Ours must also be one of the few countries in the world where a reputable medium will report fake news and, when called out, will not retract or apologize,” he added.
Lai Mohammed, in Abuja on Tuesday, waved aside the 2021 annual World Press Freedom Index, where Nigeria was shown to the rest of the world as a country where journalists are not free to do their job.
According to Mohammed, the Nigerian press remains among the most vibrant and freest in the world.
The Minister said this when he played host to the executive members of the Nigerian chapter of the International Press Institute (IPI), who were on a courtesy visit to his office.
Musikilu Mojeed, who is the President of IPI in Nigeria, had during the visit cited the World Press Freedom Index as an example of the country’s low rating in the area of press freedom.
But Mohammed would not take it and vehemently disagreed with the IPI President and the assessment of press freedom under the current administration.
“I disagree vehemently with the assessment because it is unfounded and has no scientific basis. I have been the Minister (of Information and Culture) since 2015 so I know the state of press freedom in Nigeria,” the Minister said.
Mohammed maintained that the present administration is not a threat to journalism but added that the government would not allow the use of social media to misconstrue its efforts, adding that it is not about to stifle press freedom or deny anyone his or her constitutionally-guaranteed rights.
The Minister enjoined the media to always stick to their constitutional watchdog role, and not to constitute themselves into political opposition.
He also charged IPI Nigeria to take seriously the issues of ethics, credibility and fake news, among others, in relation to the practice of journalism in the country.
”For example, on the issue of ethics, is it part of the ethics of journalism for a media organization to function as an opposition party, seeing nothing good in the government of the day and only reporting bad news?” Alhaji Mohammed queried.