STANDING Committee Meeting of the Nigerian Guild of Editors has condemned harassment and intimidation of journalists in the country.
The Standing Committee acknowledged the sacrifices being made by media owners and journalists to sustain the survival of media businesses in these dire times; with the operating environment made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was contained in the communique the committee issued at the end of their meeting in Enugu.
The editors thanked medical and media workers, who against all odds and at the risk of their lives, continue to discharge their duties to the public by offering medical services and promoting public enlightenment through information gathering and dissemination.
.The meeting emphasised the compelling need for government intervention to save the media from total collapse. The guild specifically demands that government regards media as providing essential services critical for national development and unity, hence deserves to be treated like other essential services on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19.
It lists the required government intervention to include, but not limited to, removal of tariffs on all imported media consumables, including newsprint and broadcasting equipment; to help protect jobs and also ensure the continued existence and operation of the various media houses, be they print, electronic or new media.
The meeting urged government at all levels to see the media as partners in development and not as competitors or meddlesome interlopers, stressing that this will help erase every form of suspicion and mistrust that have attended the relationship between governments and the media over the years.
The Guild appeals to the government and state actors to always recourse to relevant sections of the Nigerian Constitution which give power, responsibility and legitimacy to the media to hold public office holders accountable to the people.
It deplores the harassment and continued detention of some journalists across the nation which runs contrary to freedom of the press and allied rights and privileges conferred on the media, to at all times, be free to uphold the fundamental objectives of freedom of expression as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
The guild of editors implored journalists across all platforms to practice the profession with utmost responsibility, professionalism and without ill-will, malice and mischief, all of which are against the ethics of the noble profession.
The guild also pointed out that using public funds to finance private sector operations to save them from bankruptcy and collapse is not new and had been adopted in other countries, including the United States of America, where government voted public funds to save the US automobile industry, the banking sector and other sectors from insolvency during the financial crisis of 2008 and currently the $2 trillion bailout budget in 2020 for private equities amid the COVID-19 scourge.
The meeting recalled that the Nigerian Government has at various times in the past and during the COVID-19 era, voted public money as intervention funds for other sectors of the economy, including the aviation industry, which at this moment is largely private-sector driven.
It noted, however, that the media appears to have been excluded in virtually all government interventions, through such agencies as the Central Bank and the Bank of Industry, thus leaving the media industry to trudge on like an orphan.
The guild endorsed the position of Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) and Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), which have made strong appeals to the federal government for financial intervention to ensure that the media continue to discharge its constitutional duty, stressing that the survival of the media is essential in sustaining and deepening democracy.
It expressed worry at the growing insecurity across the nation and urged the relevant security agencies to step up their efforts to contain the scourge. The guild warned all individuals and groups fanning the embers of war, hate and divisions to desist from such acts, as they serve no good but do incalculable damage to the fabric of our national existence and cohesion.
The body of editors congratulated the newly-decorated Acting Inspector General of Police, Alkali Usman Baba and urged him to ensure that the war against crimes and criminality, including terrorism, kidnapping and armed robbery, is not only won but, that the victory is sustained.