Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you for joining us today to celebrate the 2018 World Press Freedom Day.
Let me also extend our special thanks to our distinguished speakers and panelists who will be discussing various aspects related to this year’s theme ––Media and the Transparency of the 2019 Election.
I would like to warmly welcome:
- Former Chairman National Human Rights Commission, Dr. Chidi Odinkalu.
- Professor Femi Mimiko, Professor of Political Science and Former Vice-Chancellor, Adekunle Ajasin University, Ondo State.
- President Nigeria Guild of Editors, Ms. Funke Egbemode.
- Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Dr. Qasim Akinreti.
- Zonal Public Relations Officer, Nigeria Police Zone 2 Command, Superintendent of Police Dolapo Badmus.
Thank you all for honoring our invitation today.
The United States values freedom of the press as a key component of democratic governance.
I have been in Nigeria for nearly six years.
I have been Consul General since 2015 and as CG I have visited each of the 17 states in southern Nigeria, almost all of them on multiple locations.
I have spoken with hundreds, perhaps thousands of Nigerians about democracy, elections, and the history of Nigeria.
These conversations have confirmed my belief that Nigeria has a vibrant democracy.
Democratic societies are not infallible but they are accountable, and the exchange of ideas is the foundation for accountable governance.
Peaceful and credible elections are essential to Nigeria’s continued economic, political, and social development so I am interested in your discussion today on media and the transparence of the 2019 election.
Nigeria plays a vital role on the world stage and as the largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria’s stability is crucial to the security and economic prosperity of the rest of the continent.
Nigeria’s future is full of promise and opportunity.
The U.S. government is dedicated to supporting Nigerians in ensuring that the 2019 elections will be transparent, credible, and peaceful.
Before I joined the Department of State I was a reporter.
Based on my experience I know that as reporters and editors, each of you has an important role to play in the electoral process.
You will foster active debate, provide investigative reporting, and serve as a forum to express different point of view.
When people don’t have the facts, they make them up and that creates unstable environments, rife with rumors, gossip and lies.
And you, as journalists, make sure this doesn’t happen, by providing information, researching, conducting interviews, and then educating the electorate.
The people of Nigeria rely on your unbiased and accurate coverage of the campaign season and the elections. That is why your role is so important.
As the 2019 election draws near, the U.S. Mission supports your efforts to provide objective and balanced reporting to the Nigerian people.
To this end, my Public Affairs team here in Lagos led by Darcy Zotter is putting together an election reporting training for 100 political reporters and editors.
This training scheduled will be held in four cities across southern Nigeria, and will be co-facilitated by Voice of America’s Director of International Media Training and a renowned Nigerian journalism professor.
This support is designed to help the media further appreciate their huge responsibility of reporting accurately on elections and electoral processes.
In addition to this, the United States has worked with Nigeria to strengthen democratic institutions for decades and will continue to do so.
Some of you may know that the U.S. government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has assisted Nigeria with strengthening the elections process since 1999.
Working with Nigerian and international partners, the U.S. Mission in Nigeria has also engaged diplomatically and publicly to prevent violence and increase accountability, contributing significantly to the goal of free, fair, credible, and peaceful elections in Nigeria.
I wish you a wonderful deliberation. Thank you for your attention.