Nigeria rejects 2021 World Press Freedom Index ranking
By Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The federal government has rejected the annual World Press Freedom Index 2021 which ranked Nigeria as a country not conducive to the practice of journalism.
Information and Culture Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed, during a speech in Abuja, said the Nigerian press remained among the most vibrant and free in the world.
Nigeria, ranked 120th in the World Press Freedom Index, has earned a reputation as one of West Africa’s most dangerous and difficult countries for journalists, who are often spied on , attacked, arbitrarily arrested or even killed.
Special Assistant to the President, Media, Office of the Minister of Information and Culture
Segun Adeyemi, in a statement released in Abuja, said Mohammed announced the rejection when he received the executive members of the Nigerian Section of the International Press Institute (IPI) on a courtesy visit to his office.
Adeyemi said IPI Nigeria Chairman Mr. Muskilu Mojeed, who led the executive members during the visit, cited the World Press Freedom Index as an example of the low rating of the country in the area of freedom of the press.
Mohammed said: “I disagree with your assessment of press freedom under this government. Honestly, sometimes when I read what the media writes here about Nigeria, I start to wonder if I live in the same country they are writing about.
“I vehemently disagree with the assessment as it is unfounded and has no scientific basis. I have been Minister (of Information and Culture) since 2015, so I know the state of press freedom in Nigeria.
Mohammed further said that some people have misinterpreted the government’s efforts to ensure responsible use of social media as an attempt to undermine press freedom or threaten independent journalism.
He stressed that the government had no such intentions and reiterated that the current government is not a threat to the media nor is it about to stifle press freedom or to deprive anyone of their constitutionally guaranteed rights.
“After all, it must be one of the few countries in the world where a section of the media can refuse to recognize popular sovereignty, or how to describe a situation in which a president duly elected by millions of Nigerians is deliberately stripped of that title. , president, then brazenly donning the garb of a dictator by playing on his military title?Despite this abuse of press freedom, those who have done so have continued to practice their profession unimpeded.
“Ours must also be one of the few countries in the world where a reputable media outlet will report fake news and, when called upon, will not retract or apologize,” Mohammed said.
While calling on the media to always stick to their constitutional role of watchdog, the Minister also instructed the media not to form a political opposition.
Mohammed further instructed IPI Nigeria to take seriously issues of ethics, credibility and fake news, among others, in relation to the practice of journalism in the country.
“For example, on the question of ethics, is it part of the ethics of journalism for a media outlet to operate like an opposition party, seeing nothing good in the government of the day and only reporting bad news?” asked Mohammed.
Mohammed, however, called for sustained engagement between the government and the
IPI to share views on how to improve the practice of journalism in the country.
For his part, the President of IPI Nigeria, Mr. Mojeed, said the visit was part of a series of engagements with governmental and non-governmental organizations to improve independent journalism and the operating environment for journalists and media in Nigeria.