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Two IFEX members and others condemn presidential veto of freedom of information bill, attacks on journalists and media outlets

(IJC/MRA/IFEX) - The following is a joint statement by IJC, MTA and other organisations:


RECALLING that the UN General Assembly in 1993 proclaimed World Press Freedom Day to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and to remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right of freedom of expression as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

NOTING that the day is celebrated on May 3rd of each year, being the anniversary date of the 1991 Windhoek (Namibia) Declaration on an Independent and Pluralistic African Press;

OBSERVING that freedom of the press and the right to freedom of expression are intrinsically linked with the right to access to information;

WORRIED by recent developments in the country that fundamentally negate the ideals of World Press Freedom Day, the Windhoek Declaration and the principles enshrined in Article 19 including:
- the refusal of President Olusegun Obasanjo to assent to the Freedom of Information Bill (FOIB) as passed by the National Assembly
- the armed invasion of the Abuja premises of the African Independent Television (AIT)
- numerous cases of assault and attacks on journalists during the recently concluded general elections
- the harassment of journalists during the recent May 1st Workers' Day celebrations, and especially the assault on Mr. Dare Folorunso, a cameraman with Ondo State Radiovision Corporation in Akure, Ondo State capital, by a Police Officer
- the arrest and detention of human rights, pro-democracy, socialist and trade union activists as well as the seizure of their newsletters and books, also during the Workers' day celebration;

THE MEDIA FOR DEMOCRACY (MFD) IN NIGERIA comprising Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Independent Journalism Center (IJC), Journalists for Democratic Rights (JODER) and International Press Centre (IPC), HEREBY

STRONGLY condemns the refusal of President Olusegun Obasanjo to sign the FOIB despite the established fact that no meaningful war can be waged against corruption where the citizens are denied the right of access to information;

URGES the National Assembly without further delay to override the President's veto, as constitutionally permitted, so that the Freedom of Information Law could come into existence immediately;

CALLS on all assaulted journalists and media establishments as well as detained activists to urgently institute legal action against the security personnel and agencies responsible for the unwelcome and barbaric violation of their fundamental rights;

CHARGES journalists in the country to continue to strive towards higher professional and ethical standards in the course of their day-to-day reportorial duties and the fulfilment of their constitutional obligation to monitor governance and hold the government accountable to the people.

Media Rights Agenda

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