Unfettered media critical to strong, responsive democracy in Nigeria ― US

The United States of America (US) on Thursday said unfettered media is critical to strong and democratic institutions in Nigeria, calling on government at all levels to create an enabling environment for people to be adequately informed through unrestrained access to the media.

Speaking at a one-day workshop titled “Media Content and Inclusive Governance” organised by Rave FM, Open Naija and International Press Institute (IPI) in Osogbo, the Public Affairs Officer of the United States Consulate General, Mr Russell Brooks contended that necessary support must be given to the media to perform its roles of strengthening Nigeria’s democratic values.

He tasked media practitioners to be conscious of the fact that marginalised communities depend solely on them to bring into limelight challenges of neglect, deprivation and other socio-economic problems through their reports.

According to Brooks, “US strongly support freedom of the press. An unfettered press is essential for a strong and responsive democracy. Before my arrival in Nigeria about three and half years ago, I read about the courage and sheer doggedness of Nigerian press during the dark days of military dictatorship and thankfully, those days are behind us.”

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“Nigeria’s media scene is one of the liveliest in Africa. And I have spoken with hundreds, perhaps thousands of Nigerians about the media, about democracy, governance and history of Nigeria. Thus the media leave something to be desired because of residents of underserved communities in rural areas and urban slums believe politicians and the media often forget about them.”

“They are plagued with health problems, lack of access to potable water, drug addiction, lack of resources and lack of jobs. Nevertheless, coverage of these problems in underserved communities especially among major new outlets is often uncovered. As journalists, the multilateral society depends on you to tell their stories not to purely focus on the rich and the powerful”, Brooks remarked.

He added that “You (media) have tremendous power to effect change and to be the voice of the voiceless. Those two are often overlooked. People with disabilities, victims of domestic violence, or anyone else facing neglect and prejudice. I encourage you not to lose your thirst for covering the stories, your thirst for the truth and willingness to go anywhere a story leads you.”

Earlier in his remark, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Rave FM, Mr Femi Adefila, who is also the lead project officer for workshop said “as a nation, we are over-governed. We are here to find a nexus between media content and inclusive governance.”

He further averred that Nigerians should not be deceived by the false impression that we are a rich country, stressing that “no nation can ever grow with a budget of over N20 trillion while only N2 trillion goes into capital expenditure and N18 trillion going into recurrent expenditure.”

Adefila emphasised that the workshop became expedient to reawaken the consciousness of the media in getting the citizenry involved in the business of governance with a view to making the nation’s leaders accountable to the people.

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