Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, on Thursday, told the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that no country is better than Nigeria in media freedom.
Speaking in Paris, the capital city of France, during the ongoing 41st UNESCO conference, the minister, according to a report by The Cable, said Nigeria has more favourable conditions for the press than is “perceived from outside”.
CLAIM: There is greater freedom of the press in Nigeria than anywhere else in the world.
“We are yet to see any country that is more liberal than Nigeria in granting access to information by the media, even among the developed countries,” Mohammed said.
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“For 10 years, I was a spokesperson for the opposition and there was never a time I was incarcerated. At the moment, we have an extremely tolerant government to the extent that it is the government that is at the mercy of the media in Nigeria.”
In early 2021, Nigeria was ranked 120 out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
An analysis by the RSF revealed that the index data reflected a “dramatic deterioration in people’s access to information and an increase in obstacles to news coverage”.
Nigeria falls under the countries classified as having “very bad”, “bad” or “problematic” environments for press freedom”.
An excerpt on the platform, addressing Nigerian government’s relationship with the press, states, “The all-powerful regional governors are often the media’s most determined persecutors and act with complete impunity”.
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Agba Jalingo, Publisher of Cross River Watch, was detained on August 22, 2019, by the Calabar government for raising concerns about Governor Benedict Ayade’s diversion of N500 million meant for the formation of the Cross River State Microfinance Bank.
Jalingo had said in a report that the microfinance bank had been rendered inoperable due to the non-release of funds meant for its establishment. Prior to his detention, the police invited him upon receipt of a petition over his report.
Jalingo notified them that he would be out of the state, and the invitation was rescheduled for August 26, 2019. However, he was arrested four days earlier, outside Cross River State. Following his arrest in Lagos, he was blindfolded, tortured and transported by vehicle to Cross River State where he was shackled to a refrigerator.
Jalingo was moved to a prison in Calabar, the capital of Cross River State, and would not regain freedom until February 2020, about six months later.
Frederick Olatunde Odimayo, a freelance reporter, was beaten into a coma in Kogi State for reporting on drug trafficking.
Pelumi Onifade, a journalist who was covering the EndSARS protests in October 2020, was also killed in the course of duty. Onifade was the journalist who recorded the viral video of Olusegun Abiodun Bolarinwa who shot into a crowd of protesters.
The website of Peoples Gazette, a Nigerian digital news platform, was attacked earlier this year. RSF reported that Nigeria’s four main mobile internet operators, MTN, Glo, Airtel and 9Mobile were using different methods to block access to the website.
WHAT COUNTRIES RANK HIGHEST IN PRESS FREEDOM INDEX?
The 2021 World Press Freedom Index ranks Norway as the best country to practice journalism due to the favourable conditions.
“Norway has for years been at or near the top of all democracy and free speech rankings. In 2020, Norway’s parliamentarians asked the government to issue an annual assessment of the state of freedom of expression and press freedom,” it says.
Among the top 10 are Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Costa Rica, Netherlands, Jamaica, New Zealand, Portugal, Switzerland, Belgium and Ireland.
CONCLUSION: Nigeria is worse than most countries in press freedom.
VERDICT: Lai Mohammed’s claim that no country is better than Nigeria in granting media freedom is false.
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