“They are at the forefront of activities which empowers human rights defenders to take proactive steps to stay safe and secure in this repressive environment’’ — Ananaba
“Journalists make or mar any nation; so your job is very important and definitely they will go after you. We need to be careful in reportage as a little headline can create a lot of problems, trouble’’ – Frank Odita
A senior advocate of Nigeria, Prof. Paul Ananaba, has urged journalists to continue to discharge their constitutional responsibilities as “foot soldiers’’ of democracy and enforcers of the civic space.
Ananaba also described media professionals as enforcers of legislations and policies of government and institutions.
“Let us preserve the civic space…our democracy must be preserved by all means!! Journalism is the core of any democracy.
“The civic space is currently under threat in Nigeria and investigative journalists require all the support they can get to hold state actors accountable by exposing their infractions.
“Currently in Nigeria, state actors are clamping down on investigative journalists, some are harassed, arrested or even killed for speaking truth to power,’’ Persecondnews quotes the legal icon as saying.
He spoke in Lagos at a legal clinic for at-risk media practitioners in Nigeria, organized by the Spaces for Change (S4C) attended by Persecondnews.
On the suspension of Twitter by the Federal Government for several weeks running, Ananaba said the nation’s civic space might be lowered to “closed’’ similar to countries like China and North Korea.
The professor of law recalled:“During the military (Abacha) era, the civic space was between repressed and closed. At this point, the civic space is closing rapidly especially with the closing of Twitter.’’
He, however, lauded Spaces for Change for monitoring the civic space in Nigeria, noting “they are at the forefront of activities which empowers human rights defenders to take proactive steps to stay safe and secure in this repressive environment.’’
“I urge journalists and the Spaces for Change and others to continue to collectively speak against draconian policies by state actors.’’
In his presentation, a retired Police Commissioner, Frank Odita, stressed the need for journalists to protect themselves against harm, saying “you need to protect yourself before anybody to protect you, don’t open up yourself to insecurity or threat to your life being security-conscious.
“Everybody should protect himself or herself. Security is everybody’s business – secure your home, environment, yourself.
“We are all witnesses to the security situation in the country resulting in the security agencies being overstretched, thus making security everyone’s business.
Odita, who spoke on “Security and Safety Awareness for Media Practitioners’’, also described journalism as the fulcrum on which governance and the society rotate.
“Journalists make or mar any nation; so your job is very important and definitely they will go after you. We need to be careful in reportage as a little headline can create a lot of problems, trouble,’’ said Odita, a mass communication graduate and one-time Police Force Public Relations Officer.
The Executive Director, Spaces for Change, Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, who presented a paper on “The Closing Spaces Database’’, gave a rundown of laws affecting the civic space in the country including the Social Media, NGO, Hate Speech and CAMA laws.
She said the organization maintains an up-to-date and robust database on rights abuses and closing spaces for civil society and democratic engagements in Nigeria.
Ibezim-Ohaeri said the fight was no longer for menfolk alone but that women had also joined the fray.
“Women are equally at the forefront of civic engagements in Nigeria – 2015 till date, we have 170 male incidents (harassments and attacks), female 38 incidents.’’
Persecondnews reports that other resource persons included Habeeb Adebisi of Co-Creation Hub, who gave a presentation on “Wagging War against Cyber-Attacks and Cyber Terrorism’’, Ehizefua Edeh of Social Impact Consulting (Resources for human rights defenders and journaists at-risk) and Zikora Ibeh, Programme Officer, Spaces for Change (the Action group on free civic space).