ADDRESS BY ALHAJI LAI MOHAMMED, HONOURABLE MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND
CULTURE, ON THE OCCASION OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE UNESCO WORLD
REPORT ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION 2021/2022, AT THE REGIONAL FORUM FOR
WEST AFRICA ON THURSDAY MAY 5 2022
It is my pleasure to be a part of this West Africa Regional Forum on
the presentation of the 2021/2022 Report on the Global Trends in
Freedom of Expression and Media Development.
Let me commend the UNESCO Regional office for organising this forum to
present this all important report that seeks to strengthen our media
space. As we all know, issues surrounding freedom of expression and
safety of journalists are topical and dear to democracy.
May I also appreciate UNESCO for its efforts at promoting an enabling
environment for the entrenchment of freedom of expression and the
safety of journalists. The report being presented today will further
provide our leaders, media administrators, practitioners and indeed
various stakeholders in the information sector insights into the
successes achieved and the multidimensional challenges to freedom of
expression and media development, within the context of our various
It is a well known fact that freedom of expression is a fundamental
human right enshrined in our various statutes and legal mechanisms.
And it is also a key feature of democracy across the world. Article 19
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights captures this succinctly.
Over the years, countries have made efforts to liberalise the media
landscape by making it conducive for practitioners through adoption of
laws in this regard. We have also seen the glaring need to protect
journalists, as well as build their capacities to conform to the
ever-changing standards of practice, especially with emerging
technologies and particularly social media. UNESCO has provided
leadership in this regard.
As a country, Nigeria has always championed the observance of rights
of freedom of expression and the safety of journalists. However, we
have always insisted that this right that we all enjoy, especially as
media practitioners, comes with a huge responsibility; a
responsibility that says we must be circumspect in the use of
information at our disposal to avoid misinformation, fake news and
hate speech which, if not well managed, could lead to serious
disaffection and chaos in the society.
I make bold to state here that Nigeria has a vibrant, pluralistic and
free press, and this would not have been possible without an enabling
I reiterated this point when I received the executive members of the
Nigerian chapter of the International Press Institute (IPI) at my
office in Abuja recently. At that meeting, I restated the commitment
of the present Administration, led by His Excellency, President
Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, that under our watch, the media will never be
seen as a threat, but as key partners in progress of our dear country.
At this juncture, please permit me to say that in Nigeria, we have
made the freedom of expression not just a guiding principle but also a
key priority, just like the safety of our media practitioners.
Since my assumption of office, I have made it a point of duty to
regularly engage with several stakeholders in the media space, with a
view to strengthening the information sector and building the
capacities of our media practitioners for better service delivery. I
have met with journalists under the various umbrella unions, media
owners and executives, online media practitioners and bloggers, among
others, in this regard.
As a Ministry, we have organised seminars, workshops and symposia for
media stakeholders. A key workshop organised in collaboration with
UNESCO in 2018 was on Conflict Reporting and Safety of Journalists. We
have also been celebrating World Press Freedom Day yearly by
organising symposia, the last time being in 2021 when we held a
symposium themed Journalism as a public good.
This month, we are organising, in collaboration with UNESCO and other
partners, a workshop in celebration of World Press Freedom Day, after
the global celebrations. We remain resolute in our determination to
continue to provide the enabling environment for media practitioners
to thrive within the ambits of our laws.
It is instructive to note once more that the freedom of expression we
enjoy comes with huge responsibility. It is sad that some of our
compatriots in the journalism profession take advantage of this
freedom to engage in misinformation and hate speech and to spread fake
news. That was why we launched a national campaign against fake news
and hate speech in 2018, a campaign that has brought the issue to the
front burner of national discourse.
I want to urge journalists within the West African subregion to join
hands with our various governments to curb the activities of such
journalists who taint the image and good works of those of us who
desire to uphold the ethos and professionalism of this very important
As a step towards the realization of this, I call on journalists and
media houses to set up a fact- checking desk, so as to arrest the
prevalence of misinformation, fake news and hate speech in our
I wish to commend UNESCO and its partners for putting up this report.
Let me assure you that we as a country will study the report and the
recommendations contained therein with the seriousness it deserves.
In conclusion, I wish to inform you that Nigeria will be hosting the
2022 Global Media and Information Literacy Week, the first country
within our subregion to host this event. I hereby solicit the support
of all relevant stakeholders for the success of this global event.
I thank you for listening and I wish us fruitful deliberations.