This week, Nigerian journalists marked World Press Freedom day with a call for greater access to information and an end to restrictive press laws. Among them are the Evidence Act, the Public Complaints Commission Act, and the Official Secrets Act – which penalizes civil servants who issue government information as well as those who receive it.
The laws were denounced by scores of journalists on Tuesday at a Lagos forum on the press sponsored by Freedom House -- a non-profit, nonpartisan organization, that supports democracy and freedom around the world.
One of those attending the forum was Lanre Arogundade – coordinator for the International Press Center in the nation’s capital, and a former chairman of the Lagos Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ). He told Voice of America stringer Paul Okolo that although the country enjoys a freer press than it did during military rule just five years ago, journalists still encounter harassment by authorities.
Freedom House’s Nigeria Project Director, Dapo Olorunyomi, called for the Senate to pass a Freedom of Information bill long stalled in the legislative body. It would grant Nigerians the legal right to obtain information and public records from the government.
Journalists gathered at the forum said they would fight for passage of the bill, and against any attempts to muzzle the press.