By Ezekiel Obi (ABUJA)
The Nigerian National Committee of the International Press Institute (IPI) has asked the Nigerian government and all security agencies in the country to respect the constitutional rights of journalists to freely cover and report on the general elections commencing this Saturday, 25 February, 2023, without obstruction or impediment.
In separate letters to heads of all security organisations in the country and the electoral management body, IPI Nigeria reminded the agencies that just as they are duty bound to ensure the elections are conducted peacefully, journalists are also under duty to keep the public informed.
The letters, which were jointly signed by the IPI Nigeria President, Musikilu Mojeed, and its Legal and Advocacy Officer, Tobi Soniyi, were addressed to the Inspector General of Police, the Director General, State Security Service (SSS), the Commandant General of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the Chief of Defence Staff.
Similar letters were written to the Minister of Information and Culture, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, as well as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Citing the 1999 Constitution, as amended, precisely Section 39(1) and (2), Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which also guarantee this right, IPI Nigeria reminded the agencies that journalists are under legal obligation to cover the elections.
A press statement signed by IPI Nigeria Secretary, Ahmed I. Shekarau, quoted the organisation’s president and legal officer as stating that: “When journalists cover elections, they are performing a constitutional duty. Just like it behoves on security agencies to protect lives and property, journalists are duty bound to provide the public with accurate information not just during elections but at all times”.
The Nigerian chapter of the global media body emphasized that to discharge their statutory responsibility, journalists must be allowed to go about their business freely and must have unrestricted access to cover the elections, stressing that “When journalists are allowed to cover elections, transparency is enhanced, thereby resulting in credible elections”.
IPI Nigeria said that since the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has accredited journalists to enable them cover the elections, security operatives must not obstruct such journalists from performing their constitutional duty.
The media body further requested the security operatives and INEC to ensure the safety of journalists during the elections.
“Our organisation will take every legitimate measure to hold to account anyone whose action or inaction leads to the violation of the rights of any journalists during the electioneering period and afterwards,” the letter to the government, security agencies and INEC said.