Prevention of Assault on Journalists
The recent verbal attack on a journalist, Eyo Charles of the Daily Trust newspaper by a former minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode at a news conference in Calabar, Cross Rivers State has brought to the fore harassments being faced by journalists in the country.
The former minister was seen in a viral video threatening the journalist Eyo Charles, who has since claimed that a security aide in the entourage of the former minister confronted him after the news conference.
This of course generated reactions and counter reactions from groups, associations and regulatory bodies demanding that the former minister should apologise to the journalist and give an assurance of his safety in view of the alleged further threats.
Though, the former minister later apologised ten days after the incidents, which many Nigerians believed was not well said.
According to the nation’s Constitution, journalists are saddled with the constitutional obligation of monitoring governance and holding the government accountable to the people, and should not be subjected to harassment in the course of duty.
Section 22 of the Constitution as amended also empowers them to hold those in government accountable and responsible to the masses in line with the dictates of the Constitution.
In the course of upholding the constitutional provisions, journalists are encounter hatred from powerful people in the society because their wrong deeds are exposed to the people, and this has led to occasional and unbridled attacks on journalists.
The story of Dele Giwa, a Nigerian journalist and co-founder of Newswatch Magazine, whose death by letter bomb in 1986 rocked the nation still lingers.
According to findings, he was killed by some top shot in Nigeria while trying to expose some of their atrocities.
The harassment of journalists in the country is becoming rampant, and this had made many brave hearts to chicken out of the profession while some have to be contented with what their organisation dictate what to write.
To put an end to this, national assembly should urgently enact a law that will protect this noble profession, including good funding, good remuneration, security of pen pushers, functional insurance policy and conducive working environment.
When such law is enacted, violators should be dealt with accordingly so as to serve as deterrent to others. This of course will boost the morale of every journalist.
As is the case in other noble profession, journalists should see themselves as one big family irrespective of their organisation, ethnic or years of experience.
This will automatically make the umbrella body strong and a force to reckon with.
For instance, the boycotting of a media conference organised by Femi Fami –Kayode in Ibadan shows that with one voice, those who call themselves ‘too big to be confronted’ will bend their kneels at the sight of any journalist.
The decision of the Nigeria Union of Journalist to boycott further assignments by Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode as it was witnessed in Akwa Ibom and Oyo states was a good step in the right direction.
Besides this, NUJ must come out in time and sound note of warning to Nigerians who cannot hold their emotions while addressing news conference.
Journalists should be open to their supervisors or editors on what transpire on the field in order to identify loopholes and put adequate measures in place for their protection.
Above all, Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, should continually agitate and hold the government accountable by keeping cases of harassment in the news.