The Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, has insisted that media freedom, freedom of expression and access to public information were crucial to democracy and must be at the heart of Nigerian government’s values and actions.

The professional body of editors and media executives in Nigeria also said that it recognises the crucial role played by journalists, media workers and free/ independent media in protecting the country’s democracy and advised them not to give up, in spite of the prevailing economic challenges.

In a statement, yesterday to mark this year World Press Freedom Day by its President, Mr. Eze Anaba and General Secretary, Dr. Iyobosa Uwugiaren, the Guild requested the National Assembly to initiate and adopt a law to protect journalists, who speak out on matters of public interest, especially against abusive and strategic lawsuits, which are regularly initiated to silence them.

This year’s World Press Freedom Day, is dedicated to emphasizing the importance of good journalism amidst the current global environmental crisis.

World Press Freedom Day is observed annually on May 3. Established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993, this day helps to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, assess the state of press freedom throughout the world, defend the media from attacks on their independence, and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

The day also acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It highlights the importance of a free, independent, and pluralistic media in fostering transparency, accountability and democracy.

According to NGE, “This year’s World Press Freedom Day provides an opportunity for every stakeholder in the media community to continue to drum it to the hearing of both state and non-state actors – about the importance of press freedom and the challenges being faced by journalists, including censorship, harassment, imprisonment and violence. And the urgent need by the government to take deliberate and sustained action to promote press freedom and good journalism in the country.

“The Federal Government will fundamentally be promoting the enabling environment for media to operate responsibly if it adopts a law to protect persons who speak out on matters of public interest against abusive lawsuits meant to silence them.

“The Federal Government should take a clue from the European Union and other democracies around the world, who have adopted similar laws to protect journalists and media houses against Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, SLAPP suit.

“More so, there are still many obnoxious and anti-media laws in our statutory books that are targeted at journalists and media houses. The National Assembly must take immediate step to repeal them.”

The NGE also urged government at all levels, international organisations and civil society organisation to protect and promote press freedom; ensure safety and security for journalists/media houses and ensure that all restrictive laws and policies targeted at the media are repealed.

The NGE said: “We celebrate the courageousness and commitment of journalists across the country, who continue to risk everything to bring us the truth and reliable/credible information. We also acknowledge the growing threats to press freedom – from violence and censorship to disinformation and economic pressures.

“We pay tribute to the journalists who have lost their lives or faced persecution, and we stand in solidarity with those under threat or attack and those who continue to work under very harsh economic conditions.”

The editors said that they would continue to advocate for press freedom, freedom of expression and access to information, adding that they are crucial to good governance, democratic societies and fundamental human rights.