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BusinessDay

Policy Intervention Series 3: Strategies for Safeguarding Press Freedom in an Increasingly Digital Age

The role of technology in fostering productivity and accountability in government parastatals

Date: May 16, 2024

Venue: American Coner

(21st Century Technologies Limited HQ) Lagos

Introduction

This report summarises a panel discussion on safeguarding press freedom in the digital age, as part of the “Policy Intervention Series.” The event featured prominent figures from Nigerian media, including publishers, editors, and media rights advocates.

Opening Remarks

● Frank Aigbogun, Publisher, BusinessDay Media: Highlighted the importance of ongoing dialogue about press freedom and adapting to the challenges of the digital age.

● Richard Ikiebe, Chairman, Board of Directors, BusinessDay Media Limited: Emphasised the media’s role in nation-building and its vulnerability to control by powerful interests in the digital age.

Threats to Press Freedom in the Digital Era

The discussion identified several key threats to press freedom in Nigeria.

● Political interference: Examples included arrests of journalists for critical reporting and accusations against those advocating for good governance.

● Ownership and big business interests: Concerns about subtle control over editorial content and self-censorship by media owners.

● Cyberattacks and surveillance: Threats faced by journalists include hacking, malware, and online stalking.

● Misinformation and disinformation: The spread of false information undermines legitimate journalism and confuses the public.

● Legal and regulatory challenges: Misuse of legal systems to pressure journalists, such as arrests for refusing to reveal sources.

● Economic pressures: Disrupted revenue models and delayed salaries forcing journalists to compromise their work.

Strategies for Safeguarding Press Freedom in a Digital Age

Speakers and Panelists

Richard Ikiebe Chairman, Board of Directors, BusinessDay Media Limited; Adedeji Adekunle Programme Director, Nigeria Media Innovation Program (NAMIP); Ibanga Isine Managing Editor, Guardpost.ng; Gbenga Sesan Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative (PIN); Ituah Imhanze Managing Partner, Kenna Partners; .

Nwachukwu Egbunike Senior Lecturer, School of Media and Communication / Head, Pan-Atlantic University Press.

The panellists proposed several strategies to counter these threats:

● Strengthening legal protection: Laws protecting journalists from arbitrary detention and ensuring well-defined digital rights.

● Enhancing digital security: Equipping journalists with the knowledge and tools to protect themselves and their sources.

● Educational programs promoting digital literacy: Public awareness initiatives to combat misinformation and support credible journalism.

● Diversifying revenue streams: Exploring alternative funding models to maintain media independence, including successful models from other countries.

● Increased advocacy by media organisations: The Nigerian Union of Journalists and Guild of Editors need to be more vocal in protecting journalists.

Panel Session Highlights

● Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative: The media needs to adapt and become more resilient in the digital age.

● Adedeji Adekunle, Program Director, Nigeria Media Innovation Programme: Vague interpretations of existing laws and economic dependence on powerful interests are threats to press freedom.

● Nwachukwu Egbunike, Senior Lecturer, School of Media and Communication: The rise of citizen journalism creates challenges with misinformation, but state actors remain a key threat.

● Ibanga Isine, Managing Editor, Guardpost.ng: Shared his personal experience of intimidation and highlighted the need for collaboration within the journalism community.

● Ituah Imhanze, Managing Partner, Kenna Partners: Emphasised the role of journalists and the existing legal protections available.

● Gbenga Sesan (revisited): Criticised media ownership structures and outdated laws, noting recent improvements in the Cybercrime Act.

Conclusion
The event highlighted the complex challenges to press freedom in Nigeria’s digital age. While legal and technological solutions are important, a strong and united media community is crucial for safeguarding free and independent journalism.