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The International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos on Wednesday, May 11, 2022 held a roundtable on the protection of journalists as frontline workers at the Sheraton Hotels & Towers, Abuja.

The event which was held in celebration of the year 2022 World Press Freedom Day, globally marked on May 3rd; with Dr. Kole Shettima, Director of the MacArthur Foundation, delivering a keynote address.

It also had important stakeholders in journalism advancement and safety of journalists, who shared their perspectives and thoughts on the subject matter aimed at attaining the objective of developing mechanisms for the protection of journalists during situations of crisis.

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With the theme of this year’s celebration – ‘Journalism Under Digital Siege,’  the organisers focused on what they described as another dimension of the siege for journalists and the media in Nigeria.

A dimension, the IPC notes has to do with the lack of protection for journalists who by the nature of their professional calling, they become front liners during moments of national crisis or public emergency. 

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READ ALSO: #WorldPressFreedomDay: Lawan hails Nigerian journalists, assures of NASS protection

It also featured the public presentation of a documentary and a publication on attacks on journalists and other media professionals and workers during the COVID-19 lockdown titled ‘Voices From COVID-19 Frontlines.’

Another documentary aired was focused on the molestation of journalists and arson attacks on media outlets during #EndSARS protests titled ‘Voices From #EndSars Frontlines.’

“Our objective of revisiting the past is to draw necessary lessons to avoid a repeat and chart a better course for journalism in Nigeria. Consequently, beyond the airing of the documentaries, we are also gathered for a stimulating roundtable discussion on protection for journalists as frontline workers during crisis and emergency periods,” Executive Director of the International Press Centre (IPC), Lanre Arogundade noted.

READ ALSO: CSOs, media professionals, others propose legislation to protect journalists

According to Arogundade, “whenever these situations arise and journalists brave the odds by throwing themselves into the mesh, they do so not out of undue adventurism, but because they are the societal watchdog who have the obligation to provide credible information to citizens. 

Journalists and other media professionals also do so because they need to gather information which the government can rely upon to make desired interventions to resolve the crisis or bring the emergency under control.

Furthermore, journalists and other media professionals take such actions because they want to observe and report on the management by state institutions in line with the constitutional obligation to monitor governance and hold government accountable to the people.”

READ ALSO: WHO tasks journalists on Covid-19 reportage

Explaining that journalists and other media professionals perform multiple roles, Arogundade listed a summary of these functions in their coverage and reportage of crisis and emergency situations, including:

  • Disseminating reliable information;
  • Providing voices for parties to the conflict;
  • Helping to resolve issues in the conflict; and
  • Holding duty bearers accountable.

Arogundade stated that despite these weighty responsibilities, journalists and other media professionals who find themselves on the frontlines; unfortunately, get molested and harassed. 

READ ALSO: Journalists harassed as Rep assumes role of sergeant-at-arms in COVID-19 hearing

“Such has been the case that in our documentation of attacks on journalists as reported during the World Press Freedom Day 2021, we provided statistics on attacks on journalists and media outlets during the Covid-19 lockdown and the #EndSars protests by youths in the year 2020.

Those statistics and others emanating from other incidents demonstrate why Nigeria continues to rate poorly in the World Press Freedom Index, with the country occupying an unenviable position of 120 in the year 2021, thus suggesting some of the worst violations of journalists and media rights take place here. 

While interacting with some of the journalists assaulted during the Covid-19 lockdown and #EndSars, however, we discovered that statistics alone cannot tell the full stories of their ordeal including the immediate and later effects on their physical and mental well being. Neither did the figures tell the full story of their losses.

This discovery made us to conclude that we need to document the experiences of these journalists and other media professionals for the purpose of capturing in greater detail what really transpired and sensitise relevant stakeholders on the need to put a halt to such unwelcome trends.”

READ ALSO: Survey highlights concern for journalists’ safety on COVID-19

The IPC saluted the courage of the journalists who were affected and who have decided not to keep silent in the face of tyranny. It equally praised those who commendably, have opted to tell their stories for the Nigerian public and the global freedom of expression community to have a deeper insight into the landmines they stepped on with dire consequences; and which still lay on the path of journalists in the course of legitimate duty.

We appreciate and commend their bravery in going to what can be likened to the war fronts to bring information to the people. It is hoped that by speaking out loudly and boldly, they would be able to get the desired justice.”

The IPC had the International Freedom of Exchange (IFEX), the Shehu Musa Yar’adua Foundation, Ford Foundation, Luminate and OSIWA as partners for the documentation.

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