Press Freedom Day: Is the Media really Free in Nnewi?
‘No democracy is complete without access to transparent and reliable information.it is the cornerstone for building fair and impartial institutions, holding leaders accountable and speaking truth to power”-Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General
A journalist exists to carry out these basic functions; to educate, to inform, to entertain and help tell the story of a particular people, tribe, and race to the outside world. Journalism and reports that are centered on local communities like in Nnewi and its surrounding environment are often ignored by the National media almost in every country. This has inspired many media outlets like Anaedoonline.com to establish its media hub in Nnewi, Anambra state.
The practice of journalism in Nigeria especially in this part of the country has many downsides, which have to be a major obstacle to many journalists in the line of duty. Even though the Freedom of expression is considered a fundamental human right in the whole world under the UN Charter of 1948 and under the Nigeria constitution, but how free are the Journalists in Nnewi? Journalists come under intensive attacks in their effort to report happenings in a town like Nnewi.
Nigerian constitution provides a legal right to every citizen of the country to have access to information but unfortunately, journalists encounter many difficulties in having access to official documents.
Nnewi inhabitants appear to be afraid and skeptical about giving or aiding the press with reliable information. Even when they divulge such information, they play down and twist the event making the report lack substance.
In general, the rural media correspondents rely on press releases issued by individuals and organizations to get stories which are mostly twisted to suit such a group.
There are numerous instances where journalists have experienced media hostility in Nnewi.
Take for instance, in March 2019 a female journalist from Anaedoonline.com(name withheld) was present at a local youth meeting in Nnewi (which the youths invited Anaedoonline), she went about her duties taking pictures of the event. Suddenly, the crowd threw bottle water cans at her. She had her identity card around her neck, yet they queried her identity.
In February 2019, two weeks to the Nigeria general elections, another Anaedoonline.com female journalist who was on duty to cover the Akwudo trailer accident where about 5(five) persons died. While she covered the incident, taking pictures and asking questions, an angry mob attacked her. Another staff was subsequently attacked; they were made to delete all the pictures of the incident they had taken.
This raises the question again, how free are the journalists who operate in Nnewi?
It is not only government interference that hampers the journalism practice in Nnewi. Every stakeholder and every individual who has raised a hand against a journalist; the individuals and communities who have denied the media information about rape issues, child abuse accidents in their communities also deny journalist the ability to report timely and accurate events.
Writing reports on controversial issues in Nnewi is probably a Sacrilege. Opinion writers and journalists from Anaedoonline.com have been threatened several times not to write on controversial issues. Some they have gone ahead to publish, others have been allowed to “drown in the ocean”.Journalist security is a worldwide mandate, however, the security of the Anaedoonline.com journalist is worrisome because their safety is uncertain, they are prone to be harmed at any moment.
There have been similar cases where journalists within the state and region have been attacked. Rural journalists who cover sensitive issues like terrorism, war against terrorism, election and rural clashes face a lot of pressures and attacks from the government.Today, Nigerian Journalists and Anaedoonline.com join the rest of the world to celebrate the 2019 press freedom day with the theme – Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation.
We urge Nnewi inhabitants to support their own media so as to help to accurately tell our story to the rest of the world.
Hence, opening your doors and heart to the media does not translate to harm on your community, it means we can share our rich cultural heritage with the world. Nnewi being the highest generating revenue for the state should have soared greater than this, and we can only develop when we can mirror ourselves to the rest of the world. We urge you all to give the journalist a listening ear and a receptive disposition.
Today we also remember our compatriots, who have lost their lives in the cause of their duty,
Fidelis IKwuebe, a freelance journalist who was murdered while covering a violent clash between the Aguleri and Umuleri communities in Anambra State on April 18, 1999.
Others to mention include but not limited to Okezie Amaruben, Enenche Akogwu, Bayo Ohu, Nathan Dabak, Sunday Bwede, Sam Nimfa-Jan, Samson Boyi, Tunde Oladepo, Zakariya Isa, etc. These our heroes/heroines died in the course of covering one event or the other.
We cannot forget your struggles to feed the nation with the right information needed.
Onyinye Okeke and Akabogu Dorathy