Executive Director of Media Career Development Network, Lagos, Mr Lekan Otufodunrin has called on the media in the country to pay attention to the shrinking space for freedom of expression and fundamental human rights in Nigeria.
Mr Otufodunrin made the call in Ibadan Friday while delivering a lecture entitled ” Roles of the media in building a virile democracy” at the maiden NUJ South west zonal lecture/award programme held at the Oyo NUJ Press Centre, Ibadan.
He said there is the need for the media to rise to the task ahead by being the watchdog of the society. He stated that , “If our democracy is to endure and become firmly rooted to ensure good governance, free and fair elections and much more, the media must not fail in its role of being the watchdog.
“We cannot afford to allow politicians to mess up the country and tempt the military to ever think of making a comeback like we have had in some countries. It is important to pay attention to the shrinking space for freedom of expression and fundamental human rights despite the fact that we are supposed to be under a democratic government”, he said.
Mr Otufodunrin added that “we are witnessing some systematic crackdown on individuals which may soon be extended to us if we don’t speak up now. So crucial is the role of the media in building democracy that without a free and unshackled media, democracy cannot thrive, just as without democracy, the media will not be able to perform, not only the roles of informing, educating and entertaining the public, but holding the government accountable to the people as provided for in our constitution.”
He emphasised that, “If democracy is indeed the government of the people, for the people and by the people, it is incumbent on the media to ensure that the democratic principles are upheld in various aspects of the overall governance of the country.”
He said the media must not take its role for granted in ensuring the kind of democratic environment we need to have in the country. He pointed out that recently, The Punch had to symbolically declare its intention to prefix the name of President Muhammadu Buhari with his military title of Major General in protest against abuses of fundamental rights and the rule of law by the federal government.
“For whatever it was worth, the unprecedented decision of the media and others which supported the move was a clear signal to politicians that the media will not only bark when it sees erosion of the spirit and letters of the democratic administration we are supposed to have, but will not hesitate to bite, however mild, as long as the government is forced to take necessary action like it did in the case of the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore and former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki who were suddenly released on bail after initial refusal to yield to right counsel”.