Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, His Grace, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has warned that any attempt by the federal government to clamp down on the media will be resisted by the Church. Onaiyekan made this known yesterday, in his homily at Church of the Assumption, Asokoro, to mark the 52nd World Communications Day. According to the Archbishop, government must be careful not to infringe on the rights of citizens as it fights to contain hate speech in the country.
He cautioned that the federal government, in its campaign against hate speech, must ensure that it does not gag the press or impede on citizens’ freedom of speech. Represented by the director of social communications in the Archdiocese, Rev. Dr. Patrick Alumuku, the Cardinal said the Catholic had always supported governments, but would only turn against it when it abandons the welfare and security of its citizens. “Today’s government’s emphasis on hate speech may impede on freedom of speech; so we appeal to government to tread with caution on the issue of hate speech so that it does not gag the press in their editorials and reportage. “As we inch towards 2019, any attempt to gag the press will be resisted by the Church.
It’s a day we are also called to reject fake news and yellow journalism. The journalists should at all times work in the pursuit of truth and peace in the nation”, he stated. Speaking on the theme: “Journalism for peace”, the clergy noted that communication emanated from God right from creation, stressing that the church has always encouraged peaceful and sustainable communication in the family and society. He said, “media men and women are called to work in truth and in the pursuit of peace.
The church wants good news to reach the whole world, but we can’t achieve this without the media. “It is as a result of this that the church is investing in the training of media personnel, especially in the social media.”
FG assures on peace Also speaking at the occasion, Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, reiterated the commitment of President Muhammad Buhari to uniting the nation and ushering enduring peace. He advised Nigerians not to despair but have absolute faith in the president’s ability to bring sustainable development and unity of purpose. “I want to assure you that the president is really working round the clock to ensure that peace is maintained in our nation. Mr. President is committed to improving the lot of the citizenry and I would appeal to Nigerians to give him a chance. “We know things are tough, but tough times don’t last forever, and we shall overcome. Some of you may have been disillusioned by the killings and other things happening in the country, but the president is doing his best to end the violence in the country. I can assure you Nigeria will soon return to its old glory”, the minister assured.
Also in a similar assurance, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, stressed that the challenges the nation is presently going through will soon be a thing of the past He urged Nigerians to believe in the nation, stressing that many citizens may be undergoing hardship, but very soon the story will change for the better. “We must believe in Nigeria instead of balkanising it.
Nigeria may be in distress and this may be a challenging period for some of us, but Nigeria will soon overcome this hardship,” he stated.
Catholic plans nationwide protest Meanwhile, plans have been concluded by the Catholic Church in Nigeria to hold a nationwide peaceful protest against killings in Benue and other parts of the country states, on May 22, 2018. Parish Priest in charge of Church of Assumption, Asokoro, Rev Fr. Peter Atsewe, who revealed this during a Holy Mass yesterday, said the protest would hold same day the two Catholic priests killed by suspected herdsmen in Benue would be buried. Fr. Atsewe said the church would use the processions to register its grief over the killing of the two priests, and 17 worshippers of St. Ignatius Catholic Church, Ukpor-Mbalom Parish, Gwer East Local Government Area of Benue state.
He explained that the protest was conceptualised by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), as a platform to ventilate the church’s anger. It would be recalled that the two priests, Joseph Gor, and Felix Tyolaha, were on Tuesday, April 24, 2018, murdered alongside 17 parishioners by suspected herdsmen, during Morning Mass.