A Professor of Political Science and International Relations in the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Jideofor Adibe, has expressed concern about the Nigerian World Press Freedom index of 120 out of 180 countries, lamenting that the environment has continued to deteriorate.
Adibe, who was a guest on the Arise News channel programme, The Morning Show, yesterday, recalled that there was a time when the country relatively did better, but that reports from Reporters Without Borders have always shown concerns about the environment of the press freedom in Nigeria.
According to him, “From 1991 when the World Press Freedom day originated in Windhoek, Namibia, till date, a lot of things have happened and a lot of African countries have done extremely well in terms of freedom, but the environment is somehow deteriorating. If you look at Namibia that hosted it then, the emphasis was on print media.
“At that time, you could hardly count the number of African countries where press freedom was given high mark. If you look at the 2021 index, Nigeria moved down from 115 position out of 180 in 2020 to 120. By then, Ghana was ranked 30 better than the United Kingdom which ranked at 34. Namibia is the best performing and ranked 24, just one step down from its ranking in 2021.
“From other reports from Reporters Without Borders, they will always express concern about the environment of the press freedom in Nigeria. Virtually all the indices of development going southwards in the country, it’s been all about deterioration. Indeed, there was a time we did relatively better, but now, 120 out of 180 countries, you could say you are still better than 60 countries, but that is not enough. Senegal is ranked higher than us, so it’s really a source of concern.”
Speaking on the theme of the day: ‘Information as a Public Good’, he described free speech as something that should be promoted, which is vital in discovering the truth, and that freedom of expression should be cherished on its own.
According to him, “When you have freedom of expression, the people will become effective participants in the democratic process; although there has been a huge distrust on the part of the government, the only way to ensure that the government does not trample on the right of the press is to ensure unfettered freedom of speech which is also the first amendment in the United States Constitution.”
When his view was sought on the statement credited to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Senate President, Dr. Ahmed Lawal, that journalists should practice responsible journalism, the don said: “We do know that there is something called responsible journalism, but the state is distrusted, you cannot expect a state that is very distrusted to preach responsible journalism to you. If some of the media professionals from Lai Mohammed, Femi Adesina and Garuba Shehu come to make a speech, you don’t expect them to be against the government, you might as well turn off your television set because you know what they would say. In that sense, they must living up to the expectation, and let opposition interrogate them and boldly tell it to them when they fail. In Africa, ‘big men’ don’t like to be criticised, and when they criticised them, it becomes a different thing.”