As Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) joined the rest of the World in observing the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, the Union regrets that threats and physical violence against Journalists still occur regularly and are often carried out with impunity.
This was stated by the NUJ National President, Dr Chris Isiguzo today in Abuja while observing the International Day at the National Secretariat of the Union.
The theme of this year’s event according to UNESCO, is centered around violence against journalists, the integrity of elections, and the role of public leadership. It said that the 2023 observance seeks to raise awareness of the main challenges faced by journalists and communicators in the exercise of their profession, and to warn of the escalation of violence and repression against them.
These include attacks and restrictions on the press in the context of coverage of social protests; the use of judicial mechanisms against journalists for reasons related to their journalistic work on matters of public interest; and the increase of forced exile of journalists in some countries.
While condemning acts of repression against journalists who are denied the right to freedom of expression through censorships that continue to manifest in various forms, Comrade Chris Isiguzo called for a halt to such acts of impunity and said that the Union will renew its efforts in the months ahead to tackle threats to journalists, campaign for improved working conditions and build a stronger voice for journalists in the Country.
“We note the difficult working environment in which journalists are currently operating, including poor wages and exploitative conditions. Nigerian journalists are yearning for better wages, more secure contracts and decent working conditions”, he explained.
Comrade Isiguzo who equally observed that election coverage is one of the most dangerous assignments for Journalists in the Country, urged the authorities to allow all journalists who wish to cover elections to do so without obstruction or censorship. “ Local and foreign journalists should be able to follow the events on the ground and keep the public informed about the democratic process, because Press freedom is central to any free and credible election”, he stressed.
The President re- echoed the appeal of the Union to the Federal Government and all States of the Federation, to take effective measures for better protection of journalists and to fully implement the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, which clearly states that …. “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his or her freedom of expression…”, and to cooperate and support the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression in the Continent and to build synergy with the Union to foster safety of all media professionals.
“We urge all Media Organisations in the Country to evolve effective Insurance Schemes for Journalists in their employment. We also want an end to the harassment of journalists for exercising the right to free expression and demand respect for their human rights – including their right to access to information – they should be allowed to do their jobs without fear of intimidation or arrest”, Comrade Isiguzo emphasized.
Meanwhile, the Union appalled at the treatment meted out to the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Joe Ajero by sponsored thugs and the Nigeria Police.
According to a statement signed by the National Secretary of the Union, Shu’aib Usman Leman, “We are equally full of consternation by the Gestapo manner in which Comrade Ajero was battered and subsequently whisked away.
“Obviously the Nigeria Police and other State Actors have learned nothing out of our nascent democracy, which presupposes that conduct of such Agents of State should be civil and that Citizens have a right to peaceful assembly and protests.
“The Media have reported that as at the time Comrade Ajero was being brutalised on Wednesday, November 1,2023, one person was feared dead as miscreants descended on protesters, smashing vehicles, inflicting injuries and dispossessing handsets from labour members that had gathered at the NLC State secretariat. The NLC President alongside other members of the Central Working Committee, CWC, were at the State Secretariat in Owerri to begin the planned strike action against the State Government’s insensitivity to the plight of workers in the State.
“Over the years, ordinary Nigerians have always found succour in the struggles of the NLC for a better stake for workers and other poor citizens in the Nigerian State which is skewered in favour of the elite. It is in appreciation of this perseverance, strength of character and invaluable contributions to the development of the Nation and democracy in the country by Labour that we find the entire saga out of tune with reasonable conduct and in bad taste.
“The Imo State Government should be held responsible for any untoward thing that happened to Comrade Ajero or any official of the NLC as a result of this development.
We condemn this dangerous development in its entirety and call for proper investigation and punishment for the perpetrators”, the statement said.