The Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has called on federal and state governments to ensure the safety and protection of journalists and media houses during the forthcoming 2023 general elections and beyond.
MRA Director of Programmes, Mr Ayode Longe, made the call in Lagos at a news conference to commemorate International Day to end impunity for crimes against journalists.
The event was also to mark 10-year anniversary of the UN Plan of Action on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity.
Longe listed various infractions, violations and violence against journalists including killings which were reported by MRA and others but were never punished, thereby heightening impunity.
He said the Police and other security and law enforcement agencies who should collaborate and protect journalists had also become tools in the hands of influential people to violate and intimidate them.
Longe said killings of 19 journalists from May 1999 to date were yet to be investigated for arrests or prosecution of offenders to ensure justice.
“As the 2023 General Elections draw near, we see attacks on journalists and media houses escalating and so we need to cry out early to draw attention to this forthcoming escalation of attacks and call on the Nigerian government to take proactive action so our fear will not come to pass,” he said.
He said all tiers of government should live up to their responsibility to investigate all attacks and prosecute perpetrators to restore confidence to journalists in carrying out their assignments.
He urged the Federal Government to develop and adopt robust mechanisms to protect journalists and ensure their safety and security.
“We once again call on the Federal Government to establish a specialised team of prosecutors to facilitate the effective investigation and the prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against journalists and other media workers.”
He said this would enable Nigeria to fulfil its regional and international treaty obligations to ensure the safety of journalists.
“The Federal Government should fully implement the Anti-Torture Act, 2017 and enlighten law enforcement agencies and the general public on torture and the provisions of the Act.
“The Federal Government should comply with and give effect to all judgments delivered by national, regional and international courts on freedom of expression and media freedom,” he said.
Longe urged the Federal Government to immediately repeal all laws that fell below international norms and standards on freedom of expression and media freedom.
He also called for the amendment or repeal of laws not complying with the Nigerian Constitution or international instruments by national and regional courts.
He called on Nigerians to join the campaigns for the safety of journalists to hold the government accountable and ensure that those who attacked them were brought to book.