The President made this known in his keynote address at the opening of the Congress of the Federation of African Journalists in Abuja. President Buhari who was represented at the occasion by the minister of information, Alh. Lai Mohammed, said that the present administration believes that the reason for the existence of any government is the security and welfare of its citizens, whether or not they are journalists and therefore committed to ensuring the safety of all citizens.
‘‘I can report to this Congress that not a single journalist is being detained or harassed in our country today. The government of the day is not a threat to the media, and it is not about to stifle press freedom or deny anyone his or her constitutionally guaranteed rights.
In his words, President Buhari further explained that ‘‘Nigeria views the International Declaration for the Protection of Journalists as a positive step, and strongly condemns attacks targeting journalists in the course of their duties. ‘‘This administration sees the media as a partner in progress, and has never even contemplated harassing, not to mention killing, any journalist.
‘‘The media represents the eyes and ears of the world. Any attempt to silence it through the harassment, arrests, detention and murder of journalists, is akin to making the world go blind and deaf,’’ he added. On what the administration is doing to ensure security, he said that ‘‘This administration takes the safety and security of its citizens very seriously.
That is why it has succeeded in defeating the Boko Haram insurgency that has left over 20,000 people dead and displaced about 2 million others since 2009. ‘‘Our military is currently involved in mop-up operations against the insurgency, which has now resorted to cowardly attacks against vulnerable targets. Of course, no government in the world is safe from such attacks, as we can see in the recent attacks in France, Belgium and Cote d’Ivoire. The government is also seriously addressing other security challenges facing the nation,’’ he said.
He charged the Federation of African Journalists to work with the governments of troubled countries to remove the existential threats to media practitioners, adding that the Federation can also work with other organisations committed to the protection of journalists, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists and the International Press Institute, to eliminate or reduce the risks to journalists.
He also said that it was equally important for media institutions to ensure the adoption of best safety protocols for their journalists. ‘‘They must develop and implement procedures and tools aimed at ensuring the physical and psychological safety, as well as the digital security of journalists, in line with the International Declaration for the Protection of Journalists which I mentioned earlier.
Earlier in his welcome address, the President of the Nigerian union of journalists, Abdulwaheed Odusile urged federal government to be thorough and to show cognizance to the rule of law in the fight against corruption. He also lamented what he termed arbitrary tax regime against the operators of the media industry and appealed to federal government to offer some level of subsidy on newsprint, ink, plates and other relevant items in media operation, stating that such step would bring some relief to the media operators.
On his part, the former FAJ and NUJ President, Mallam Garba Mohammed, bemoaned the lingering poor remuneration of media workers, especially Nigeria and also the delay in payment of media owners and urged relevant authorities to address the issues in a more and matured manner. Mohammed, who also blamed the delay in payment of media workers on the present economic hardship, solicited for more understanding of journalists for the challenges also being faced by the media owners.