Fed Govt rejects 2021 World Press Freedom Index

‘Seun Ibukun-Oni, Abuja


Daily Courier – The Federal Government yesterday queried the recent placing of Nigeria in the 2021 annual World Press Freedom (WPF) Index.

The index characterised Nigeria as a country not conducive for journalism practice.

But Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed took exception to the placement, saying it was incorrect.

The minister said, on the contrary, the Nigerian press still remains among the most vibrant and freest in the world.

Mohammed spoke yesterday when he hosted executive members of the Nigerian chapter of the International Press Institute (IPI) in his office in Abuja.

President of IPI Nigeria, Mr. Muskilu Mojeed, who led the executive members on the visit, had cited the World Press Freedom Index as an example of the country’s low rating in press freedom.

“I disagree with your assessment of press freedom under this government. Honestly, at times, when I read what the media write here about Nigeria, I begin to wonder whether I live in the same country that they write about.

“I disagree vehemently with the assessment because it is unfounded and has no scientific basis. I have been the Minister (of Information and Culture) since 2015. So, I know the state of press freedom in Nigeria,” Mohammed said.

The minister said some people have misconstrued government’s efforts to ensure a responsible use of social media as an attempt to tamper with press freedom or threaten independent journalism.

According to him, the government does not harbour such intentions.

Mohammed reiterated that the present government is not a threat to the media, and that it is not about to stifle press freedom or deny anyone his or her constitutionally-guaranteed rights.

“After all, this must be one of the very few countries in the world where a section of the media can refuse to recognise popular sovereignty.

“Or, how does one describe a situation in which a President, who was duly elected by millions of Nigeria, is willfully stripped of that title and then cheekily cloaked in the garb of a military leader by playing up his military title?

“Despite that abuse of press freedom, those doing that have continued to practise their profession without hindrance.

“Ours must also be one of the few countries in the world where a reputable medium will report fake news and, when called out, will not retract or apologise,” he said.

The minister urged IPI Nigeria to take seriously the issues of ethics, credibility and fake news, among others, in relation to the practice of journalism in the country.

Mojeed said the visit was part of a series of engagements with governmental and non-governmental organisations to enhance independent journalism and operating environment for journalists and media organisations in Nigeria.