Speaking at the Gala/Award Night of the International Press Institute, IPI, in Abuja on Friday, Nigeria’s Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed debunked claims by the press freedom organization, Committee To Protect Journalists, CPJ, that a certain Nigerian journalist has been in detention for the past two years.
According to Lai Mohammed, the person the CPJ was referring to was never a journalist. His statement reads in part;
“Let me state here, without equivocating, that contrary to the report by the Committee To Protect Journalists, CPJ, no journalist is in detention in Nigeria. Clement Abiri, who is being referred to as a journalist, is not one. He does not belong to any chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists. He was arrested for pipeline vandalism and crude theft, including militant activities in the Niger Delta.”
He restated the commitment of the present administration to press freedom, and gave the assurance that the media has nothing to fear under the present dispensation.
“In my opening comments at the 2016 IPI Congress in Doha, I said we as a government view the media as a partner. That remains true. I also said the media in Nigeria has nothing to fear from this Administration, and that – if anything – we as a government are the ones who have to fear the media. Also, that has not changed.
”We are proud that the Nigerian media is one of the most vibrant in the world. We are proud of the role that the Nigerian media has played in our long march to democratic governance. This administration will continue to provide the enabling environment for the journalist to function unmolested,” Mohammed said.
While speaking on the theme of the 67th IPI World Congress, which is “Why Good Journalism Matters,” Lai Mohammed said apart from alerting the government to the indispensable role of the media in the society, it reminds it of the purpose of journalism which is to serve all citizens in a democratic society and to tell the truth.
“If we all agree about this obligation, then it behoves the media to tell the truth, not just to power, but to the people, making it easier for them to get the facts in the right context, thus facilitating their decision-making process. But in an era of growing cases of fake news and disinformation, can we still say the media – whether traditional or new – is living true to this dictum? If the answer is no, what does this portend for the profession in particular and the society in general? I am sure this congress is examining the issue critically in the course of its deliberations,” he said.
The Minister thanked the IPI for granting Nigeria the hosting right for its 67th World Congress, which he described as an affirmation that Nigeria is now safe for citizens and foreigners alike.