No doubt, we join the world to celebrate this year’s World Press Freedom Day which was marked globally at the weekend not just because it is incumbent on us as media practitioners to so do, but because in this clime where we ply our trade, developments around make the Day central to the professional discharge of our responsibility to the society even as we must seize the occasion to sensitise the world about the essence of unfettered practice of journalism.
We must not pretend that journalism practice in this clime is not under threat both from journalists and the society, especially government. After all, if we agree that Journalism is gathering, processing, and dissemination of news and information to an audience as is globally acclaimed, the understanding of who we are, what we do and how should be clear and unambiguous to all stakeholders.
This would have applied to both the method of inquiring for news and the literary style which we employ to disseminate it.
But most unfortunately, our target audience today largely choose not to know what we do or they know but refuse to acknowledge the fact of our relevance. Not even the fact that the Nigerian Constitution guarantees Press Freedom makes any difference to the foregoing. And the fact that Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution of The Federal Republic of Nigeria provides that “(1) every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference. (2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of this section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions,” does not make any meaning to them. So is the fact that a global citizen like the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki moon declaring that freedom of expression, independent media and universal access to knowledge will fortify our efforts to achieve lasting results for people and the planet, means nothing to them.
Sadly too, this explains the sorry state of practitioners today with poor welfare packages from their employers, harsh economic environment that makes the practice of journalism herculean as well as poor educational standards that push out substandard mass communication/journalism graduates to the newsrooms.
Bottomline therefore is the fact that the society gets the kind of press it deserves. If we must get it right, then society must let journalism thrive under a free atmosphere where there is no threat to the practice as was the case recently when President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari barred African Independent Television, AIT from covering his activities. It took his party, All Progressives Congress, APC to call him to order.
We fear that if tendencies like this continue in the forthcoming dispensation, journalism would have no choice but to operate within the dictates of what Judge Murray Gurfein in the Pentagon Papers case of June 17, 1971 sees as a cantankerous press, an obstinate press, a ubiquitous press which must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know.
The only way to avoid that scenario is for all stakeholders to allow journalism and its, professional practice thrive.


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