The Director of International Press Centre (IPC), Mr. Lanre Arogundade, has expressed a disagreement to the comment of the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, that Nigeria media is one of the freest in the world, stating that journalists still get killed and harassed in Nigeria on a regular basis.
He made the comment, on Thursday, during a panel discussion at a tribute event organized in honor of the publisher of Premium Times, Mr. Dapo Olrunyomi, held at Freedom Park in Lagos.
Mr. Mohammed had said during the 39th Session of the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris on Tuesday, that Nigeria media is acknowledged as one of the freest in the world.
The minister also said the “Nigerian Government does not engage in impunities against journalists and will never tolerate such”.
Mr. Arogundade, however, disagreed, stating that crimes are still being committed against journalists by the current government.
He said; “by our record, between November of last years and November of this year when we commemorated the international day to end crimes for impunity against journalists, about 15 incidents of attacks against individual journalists, media organizations have taken place in Nigeria.
"Two Journalists have been gunned down; one in Bayelsa state and one in Benin and there have been no investigations. Under this government, you still have crimes against journalist and you still have impunity for those crimes in the sense that those crimes are neither investigated nor the alleged perpetrators brought to justice”.
The director said it is worrisome that a government that declared its readiness to fight corruption is also the government trying to curtail information.
“We have this government that is also fighting corruption. Yes, evidently in a number of areas that the people support, but then you see again attempts to curtail information dissemination. The army under this government said they will monitor the social media not for anti-security information alone but for what they called anti-government information”
Similarly, Professor Ropo Sekoni, a professor of Comparative Literature, said at the same event, that the Nigerian press is not as free at the Minister for Culture and Tourism would like to think.
He explained that an organization can be stifled the freedom of a people by repressing them and brutalized them or to starve them with necessary information.
He mentioned the cases of Mr. Babachair Lawal, now former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and Mr. Ayodele Oke, the sacked Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, citing the secrecy that shrouded the investigation into the allegations leveled against them. He said such behavior contravenes the people’s right to know.
However, the two discussants disagreed on the level of willingness Nigerian youth have shown towards gaining information.
While professor Sekoni opined that reading culture has greatly dwindled in Nigeria compared to years ago, Mr. Arogundade believes that more youths now read a lot more because of the developments in technology.
“We are not reading as much as we used to read then even though quantitatively we do have more literate people than what we had then but we are not ready as we used to read. Why?” he questioned
On the other hand, Mr. Arogundade said; “I am of the opinion that Nigerians still want information about what concerns them. You can see that despite this belief of pervasive lack of reading culture, in the morning at major bus stops in Lagos, especially when big events happen, you see a number of Nigerians crowded round newspaper stands and having all kinds of debates.”