The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed said it’s an ‘abuse of press freedom’ to address President Muhammadu Buhari by his military title in a democratic administration.
Lai Mohammed Rejects World Press Freedom Index
The minister spoke on Tuesday when executives of the International Press Institute (IPI), Nigeria chapter, paid a courtesy visit to him at his office in Abuja.
Mohammed, who was reacting to the 2021 annual World Press Freedom Index that characterized Nigeria as a country not conducive to the practice of journalism, insisted that the Nigerian press remains among the most vibrant and freest in the world.
He further said some people have misconstrued the government’s efforts to ensure responsible use of social media as an attempt to tamper with press freedom or threaten independent journalism.
The minister emphasized that the government does not harbour such intentions in any way and reiterated that the present government is not a threat to the media and it is also not about to stifle press freedom or deny anyone his or her constitutionally-guaranteed rights.
Mohammed said, “I remember saying at the opening of the 2016 IPI World Congress in Qatar that the government of the day in Nigeria is not a threat to the media, and that it is not about to stifle press freedom or deny anyone his or her constitutionally-guaranteed rights,” he said.
“That statement remains true today as it was then. I even told the congress that the Nigerian media have no reason to fear the government, and that — if anything — it is the government that is at the mercy of the media. That, too, remains true today.
“After all, this must be one of the very few countries in the world where a section of the media can refuse to recognise popular sovereignty, or how does one describe a situation in which a president who was duly elected by millions of Nigeria is willfully stripped of that title, president, and then cheekily cloaked in the garb of a dictator by playing up his military title?
“Despite that abuse of press freedom, those doing that have continued to practise their profession without hindrance.”
The information minister further charged IPI Nigeria to take seriously the issues of ethics, credibility, and fake news.
Mohamed said, “Also, the issue of fake news needs to be taken seriously before it strips the media of its credibility.
“If people can no longer believe what they read, hear or watch on the various media platforms, then we are all in trouble.
“On the issue of ethics, is it part of the ethics of journalism for a media organisation to function like an opposition party, seeing nothing good in the government of the day and only reporting bad news?
“The last time I checked, the constitutionally-guaranteed role of the media here in Nigeria is that of a watchdog, not an opposition.”
KanyiDaily recalls that Lai Mohammed had also stated that the Nigeria is the freest and safest country to live in the world.