Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has urged journalists to ensure that they unreservedly monitor public office holders in order to stop all dictatorial tendencies and protect Nigeria’s hard-earned democracy.
The Speaker, who gave this charge while delivering brief remarks at the NUJ 2018 Press Freedom Awards night, also emphasized that as the watchdog of the society and fourth estate of the realm, the media plays a pivotal role in protecting and promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
He asked them to always “tell the right stories, especially those that promote unity, peace and harmony as well as stand up for the right to truth, especially now that we inch towards the 2019 general elections.”
Hon Dogara commended the Nigerian press for the role they played in the struggle for the restoration of democracy in 1999, while noting that many journalists paid the supreme price during military dictatorship.
He stated, “The theme for this year’s celebration, which is “Keeping power in check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law,” is apt and timely because those who hold levers of power must be put in check so as to stop all dictatorial tendencies and protect our hard-earned democracy.”
While speaking on free press, he stated that it is a necessary ingredient of true democracy as the importance of the media in promoting democracy and the rule of law cannot be over emphasised.
“Thus,” he continued, “unhindered press must be encouraged to guarantee right to information.
“As a watchdog of the society and fourth estate of the realm, the media plays a pivotal role in protecting and promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Journalists must also tell the right stories, especially those that promote unity, peace and harmony as well as stand up for the right to truth, especially now that we inch towards the 2019 general elections.”
Furthermore, he called for improved welfare for journalists by media organisations, harping on the need to pay salaries and provide health insurance for their staff who are exposed to all sorts of risks while doing their jobs. I will call on all proprietors of media organisations to promptly pay the salaries of their staff.
He stated, “I will urge the NUJ to work towards implementing life insurance for journalists in Nigeria.
I will also like to urge media practitioners to be objective, fair and balanced in their reportage and editorial policies and decisions because we cannot have freedom without responsibility.
The House of Representatives and indeed the National Assembly in general will continue to partner and support the media in guaranteeing free press including the safety of journalists through the instrumentality of the legislature, as practiced in other climes.”
The speaker said the Distinguished Friend of the Media Award given to him by the NUJ will “motivate and spur us to continue to support and protect democracy and press freedom.”