Senator Bukola Saraki, the Senate President, said Nigeria needs to have a truly independent and free press in order to advance her democracy.
The Senate President made this assertion at a conference organized by the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) and the European Union’s Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) Programme in commemoration of the 2019 World Press Freedom Day on Friday.
Senator Saraki, who was represented by Senator Philip Aduda, the Deputy Minority Whip of the Senate, noted that the press is an essential partner of government as good governance cannot be delivered to citizens without the support of the fourth estate of the realm.
He said: “We do appreciate that we cannot deliver good governance without a free press, and we are always available to work in tandem with the media to ensure a democratic society that serves us all.
“Clearly, if we truly wish to grow and preserve our democracy, we must understand that a free and pluralistic media environment that guarantees access to information, is non-negotiable.
“When citizens have information, they are able to make informed choices due to the diversity of their viewpoints. When we have such a society, when citizens are not only well-informed but are free to express their valid opinions — without fear or prejudice — it is only then that we can truly say we are practising true democracy.
“This is because democracy has at its foundation the freedom of the press, which in turn promotes good governance, accountability and respect for human rights.
“The urgency of this is reflected in Nigeria’s ranking on the Global Press Freedom Index of 2019, where we are ranked 120 out of 180 countries.
“One step lower than our standing in 2018, in fact. Other pointers would include the incidence of detention of journalists in this country.”
Senator Saraki explained that the conference was pertinent as it has helped to restate the power and responsibility of the media to the Nigerian citizens.
“It also serves as an occasion to reiterate that this power of the press comes with a great responsibility: to be the watchdogs that tell the stories that protect, defend and preserve our democracy; and hold leaders to account,” he stated.