The Honourable Attorney General of the Federation (HAGF) and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami SAN,CON has advocated for the protection of journalists against impunity and violence with a call on critical stakeholders to ensure synergy towards a fair, credible and violence-free electoral process.
Malami made the call at the 2022 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists with the theme: “Media, Civil Society and Violence-free Election in Nigeria” held in Abuja recently.
According to the HAGF, “As we approach the 2023 General Elections in the country, the role of journalists in the democratic transition cannot be overemphasized. It is gratifying to note that supporting fair, credible and violence-free electoral processes in the country is one of the cardinal themes of Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Justice National Policy on Justice 2017”.
“The Policy, which is still enforcing, was signed on the 20th September, 2017. It expresses worries on and seeks to address the impunity for crimes regarding some election-related violence and malpractices, especially the failure to hold perpetrators accountable”. Malami added.
He stated further that, “at the center of the election-related violence are voters, the media practitioners and Civil Society Organizations. In addition to the mainstream media, the Civil Society Organizations proved to be essential components of the advocates for the democratization process in the country. The Social Media which are also used by the Civil Society Organizations remain an essential tool for mass mobilization, enlightenment, advocacy and election monitoring”.
He used the occasion to reiterate President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment in collaboration with state governments, to bringing to an end all forms of undemocratic and uncultured activities, including violence on media and election personnel, during election through the administration of legally justifiable approaches on the perpetrators in order to serve as deterrence to others.
He called on all participants involved in the electioneering process to play according to rules governing political activities in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Law. He urged them to use civil and humane utterances in conformity with global best practices, thereby contributing to violence-free electoral process.
He noted that the recent developments in Nigeria had proved that the Federal Government has laudable initiatives to end impunity for crimes against Nigerian citizens. He explained that the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) report said Nigeria was the only country to get off the index of nations with impunity for crimes against journalists in 2020.
In his keynote address, Professor Umaru A. Pate of the Federal University, Kashere ,Gombe State explained that the tension and violence in the country made impact on media freedom and safety of journalists in many forms of personal and organizational risks. That is, legal, financial, psychological, verbal and physical risks such as kidnapping, arrest, censorship, threats, fear, intimidation, harassment, impunity, attacks on media houses, assault, arson, assassination, raids and the confiscation of gadgets and publications
He stated the threats and risks are worsened by absence of safety frameworks, weak legal and enforcement mechanisms and absence of mitigating and safety protocols by media organisations and journalists.
In his conclusion, Professor Pate made some recommendations such as strengthen institutional collaborations and partnerships with agencies, CSO, community alliances; imbibe and invest in ICTs; institute fact checking desks and abide by existing laws, regulations and codes ;seek immediate legal redress whenever rights and freedoms are threatened and amongst others.
Speaking, the Executive Governor of Kano State, Umaru Ganduje, represented by Kano State Attorney-General/Commissioner for Justice, Barr. Musa Abdullahi Lawan in his goodwill message urged the media to work with the Federal Government to ensure a free, fair and credible election in 2023. He pointed out that the media would determine whether the election will be peaceful through their journalistic approach.
In his paper titled Media, Civil Society, Electoral Offences and Election Tribunals in Nigeria, Mr. Sam Kargbo explained that the media and civil society are as dedicated to and responsible for the improvement of the quality and credibility of the electoral process as the three arms of government.
Kargbo added that the legal and institutional framework has addressed the threat and negative impact of electoral offences by specifically outlawing certain conducts that inhibit free and fair elections.
In attendance were representative of the INEC Chairman, Mohammed Haruna, Senior Special Assistant to President on Media and Publicity Femi Adesina, Executive Secretary National Human Rights Commission Mr. Tony Ojukwu, Representative of Vice Chancellor Federal University Lafia, Dr. Comfort Ukwela, Former DG NTA, Prof. Tony Iredia, CSO’s and journalists from across the country.