THE ROLE OF PRESS IN NATION BUILDING
The present ethnic, political and religious intolerance in Nigeria can best be addressed by giving the press a free role in not only reporting but educating the citizenry on the need to embrace tolerance.
The Nigerian constitution which gives the press a freedom of free and fair reporting should be respected by the government. Recent clampdown on newspaper houses and arrests of reporters by security agents acting on the orders of the government should be stopped. In the April 22nd, 2004 edition of Midwest Herald magazine headlined “Greedy Stella”, there was a fair reporting of the role of Stella Obasanjo in the sale of government properties. The publisher of the magazine Mr. Orobosa Omo-Ojo was subsequently arrested without any charge. He was subjected to all forms torture and intimidation without access to medical facility. No reason was given for his arrest. It was very clear that the report did unsettle the government and expose a lot of corruption within the family of the ruling government. Will this happen in the West?
A social enlightment association for Nigerian women called The Candle based in Kaduna was not spared in the March 24th, 2004 edition of their quarterly journal “The candle light” headlined “Women in Islam, slavery or bondage?” This led to the arrest of many members of the organization. Muslim extremist burnt down the headquarters of the organization. The author of this article Florence Faluyi managed to avoid being killed and fled to Europe where she is enjoying protection under the International UN Refugee convention. There are many more cases which time and space will not allow me to put down. The six years of democratic rule by the government of Obasanjo has not changed from the evil days of military captivity. The role of the press in Nation building cannot be over-emphasized.
I hereby support the call by many patriotic Nigerians that the National Assembly should pass the Public Information Rights Bill without delay. I want to also call for the immediate release of all journalists and political prisoners. The government should stop further arrests and intimidation of activists whom they perceive as critics of their negative political agenda. The press should be given a free role in reporting and seeking solution to issues that may threaten the peace and unity of our great country Nigeria.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
President, Independent Press, Nigeria (IPN)
Abuja , Nigeria .