Unfettered Access to Information Promotes Democracy – Ambassador Entwistle

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At the request of President Buhari, the United States is assisting the Nigerian government in enhancing their press operations through a series of training workshops for government spokespersons, jointly launched in Abuja, on Monday, November 9, by U.S. Ambassador James F. Entwistle and the Permanent Secretary of Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Information, Dr. Folashade Yemi-Esan.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Ambassador Entwistle reminded the participants that open and unfettered access to information is the essential ingredient that promotes democracy and accountability in governance, and an effective government press operation is critical to communicating clear and timely information to the public.  “Your ability to deliver President Buhari’s messages about counterterrorism, ending corruption, and furthering economic development are important to the future of Nigeria,” said Ambassador Entwistle.

The workshops are emphasizing the  countering of radical narratives and helping the participants create a strong network of colleagues throughout the government of Nigeria. Dr. Yemi-Esan endorsed this approach and asked journalists to show understanding and be patient in the course of seeking credible information.

Abdulwaheed Odusile, president of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), said that while the media maintains its role as a watchdog, both the government and the media have a common objective of providing effective services and being accountable to the people they serve.

In collaboration with the NUJ, the U.S. Embassy trained federal government spokespersons representing the Presidency, Senate, House of Representatives, Defense, and key ministries and agencies in Abuja, and is duplicating the endeavor in Kaduna and Lagos for spokespersons to northern and southern governors.

Eduardo Cue, an American media consultant and a former United Nations spokesperson is conducting the workshops.  This is his second training trip to Nigeria, where last year, he trained several of the journalists who covered the 2015 elections.