Nigeria - The National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) has decried the continued assault on press freedom in Nigeria.
The NAS Capoon, Mr Abiola Owoaje stated this in a press statement entitled, ‘Freedom of Expression: The Sine Qua Non of All Human Rights’ to commemorate the 2023 World Press Freedom Day’.
According to him, the theme for this year's celebration, ‘Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of Expression as a Driver for all other human rights’, underlines the crucial role the media played in propagating human rights.
He expressed sadness that with all the technological advances that have been recorded with regard to information dissemination and advocacy for human rights, the world is still grappling with a worrisome scale of international disregard for press freedom, freedom of expression, and safety of journalists.
Owoaje who pointed out the disturbing upsurge in threats to press freedom in Nigeria lamented the crackdown on journalists, media workers, media houses, and citizen journalists by the government at various levels.
He declared that the assault on press freedom not only undermines free speech, but also threatens the foundations of democracy and human rights.
Owoaje reprimanded National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) for what he called its ignoble role by turning itself into the appendage of politicians with the sole intent to gag the media and stifle freedom of the press through imposition of arbitrary fines on broadcast stations.
The statement reads in part, “The National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) is appalled by the habitual and unbridled high handedness that is on full display by government officials towards free dissemination of information. As a group, we are well aware of what constitutes hate speech and fake news, and the dangerous ramifications of allowing them to take root and fester in any society. But we are also quite uneasy about the ease with which the powers-that-be slap those labels on information and other news items which they consider inimical to their interests. This has been the pattern for a while; one which attained full dictatorial dimensions last year when the federal government shut down the micro blogging platform- Twitter for several months, snuffing out free expression and enterprise to the chagrin of the entire world.
“On this World Press Freedom Day 2023, we reiterate our commitment to the protection of press freedom, the defence of journalists and media workers, and the promotion of a future of rights where all people can exercise their right to freedom of expression without fear of reprisal. In that light we call for the investigation and prosecution of those indicted over the molestation of journalists during the 2023 general elections.
"We urge the Federal and State governments to welcome and respect the fourth estate of the realm as a veritable partner in nation building which must be given needed latitude to fulfil its societal mandate. We also decry the sheer rascality of arresting and clamping journalists into detention, and ask for the immediate release of all in that category, and expedited trials for those who have been charged for any offences.
"It is also a time to remind journalists and citizens of their expected roles in managing and disseminating information at their disposal. This is the 21st century and Nigeria cannot afford to be continuously named amongst societies that undermine the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of her citizens, especially the right to free speech".