Unlike other years, the 2020 World Press Freedom Day arrived amidst the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world.
Marked on May 3, the theme of this year’s celebration is Journalism without Fear or Favour.
The UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in a statement, said “As the [COVID-19] pandemic spreads, it has also given rise to a second pandemic of misinformation, from harmful health advice to wild conspiracy theories. The press provides the antidote: verified, scientific, fact-based news and analysis.”
Guterres harped on the importance of the press in playing a significant role during the ongoing COVID-19 situation, and how their contribution by the provision of verified information can lead the prevention of getting infected, adding “Hence, it is mandatory to talk about every detail without any fear and favor by the journalists.
President Muhammadu Buhari praised the Nigerian media in keeping people informed and educated on the pernicious Coronavirus pandemic in the country.
In a statement by his spokesperson, Femi Adesina, in Abuja on Saturday, to mark this year’s World Press Freedom Day, Buhari said: “We cannot overemphasize the role of the media in keeping people informed and educated on the pernicious virus, which has no friend or foe.
”It simply seeks to mow down anyone and everyone in its path, and public awareness is very important, lest we become like sitting ducks.The media are doing this quite effectively.”
He further charged the media to continue with their good work, “till we get to safe harbour, when the world, and our country are finally free of this greatest health challenge in recent history.”
While reflecting on the theme of the celebration, Buhari opined that Nigeria has a very unhealthy dose of disinformation, fake news, hate news, purveyed by people who use media platforms, particularly the digital variant.
“They don’t mean well for us, and no country can afford to close its eyes to the evil disinformation can cause. In a plural polity like ours, it has the potential to rupture relationships, sow seeds of discord, and set on the path of destabilisation.
”When fake and hate news are added unabashedly, it can only signpost doom. I urge the Press to use the occasion of World Press Freedom Day to see how this can be vigorously tackled,” he added.
On the part of government, the president pledged a recommitment to the ideals of freedom of the press, noting that democracy thrives better in an atmosphere of transparency, as opposed to opacity.
“We appreciate the cooperation we have enjoyed from the media in tackling the Coronavirus, and look forward to same, post COVID-19, when all hands must be on deck to repair the damages done to our economic and social lives,” the president affirmed.
The Akwa Ibom State Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists, also joined millions of journalists all over the world to mark the day.
In a press release entitled: 2020 WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY: TRUTH OVER FAKE NEWS IN THE FACE OF COVID-19 CHALLENGE, the union said, “As we all know, May 3, of every year is set aside by UNESCO to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom and to pay tributes to Journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
The release signed by Comrade Amos Etuk, state Chairman and Comrade Dominic Akpan, the state Secretary noted “We are urged by the import of this year’s theme of the World Press Freedom Day to re-assure Akwa Ibom people that we shall continue to discharge our duties with utmost objectivity and without fear or favour.
“This is because an independent press is a major pillar for the sustenance of democracy and good governance in any society.
“While it is pertinent to state here that there is no member of the NUJ, in Akwa Ibom State that is currently in detention, we wish to add that we shall continue to hold the feet of government at all levels to the fire, because that is one of the ways to make them responsive to the people and enhance accountability and transparency in the conduct of their affairs.
“We salute the commitment of all the journalists in the State in the fight against the global pandemic by disseminating timely and accurate information to the public.”
While saluting the sacrifices of past leaders to the development of the journalism profession in our State, the union urged its members to remain steadfast in the discharge of their duties, especially in line with this year’s theme as we take independent decisions that will develop our society.
“Together, we shall overcome the pandemic, which has denied us this year of the robust intellectual engagements and other activities usually associated with the celebration,” it added.