The U.S. Embassy in Abuja and U.S. Consulate General in Lagos commemorated World Press Freedom Day with a discussion of the 2015 elections media coverage. In Abuja, Ambassador James F. Entwistle on May 4 commended the media for playing a vital role in Nigeria’s historical democratic exercise. He said, “Your reporting set the public’s expectations for the elections, a process judged by domestic and international observers as credible and transparent with fairly limited violence.”
Ambassador Entwistle also expressed admiration of the Nigerian media’s role in educating the general public on the use of the permanent voter cards, which greatly contributed to the overall success of the national and state elections.
Mac Imoni Amarere, Managing Director of Daar Communications Services Ltd., and Samson Itodo, Head of Research for the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth, and Advancement, were guest speakers in the discussion in Abuja. Mr. Amarere said the media displayed a high level of professionalism and a sense of responsibility. Mr. Itodo commended journalists for utilizing social media in the discharge of their duties and encouraged them to do more. Journalists present at the discussion also presented their views on the 2015 elections coverage.
In Lagos, the U.S. Consulate General held a forum on May 5 during which Consul General Jeffrey Hawkins underscored the pivotal role the local media played in ensuring a successful and largely peaceful 2015 elections. Mr. Hawkins commended the efforts of the news media in offering a platform for the expression and amplification of ideas by political candidates during the campaign season and emphasized the importance of free press to a healthy democracy.
The panel discussants in Lagos included Lanre Arogundade, Director of the International Press Center; Emmanuel Ogala, Head of Digital Strategy at Premium Times; and Chamberlain Usoh, an anchor for Channels Television. The panel assessed media coverage of the 2015 electoral process and debated how the fourth estate fared in maintaining a high level of professionalism, accuracy, and impartiality before, during, and after the elections. Other panelists included Femi Adesina, President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors; Emevwo Biakolo, Founding Dean of Pan-Atlantic University’s School of Media and Communication; and Dr. Abigail Ogwezzy-Idisika, Head of the University of Lagos’ Department of Mass Communication.
In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly declared May 3 as World Press Freedom Day to highlight the importance of a free press and to remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. World Press Freedom Day received its inspiration from the Declaration of Windhoek, a statement of free press principles put together by African journalists in 1991.