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Journalists are oxygen on which democracy lives – panel

*Right to know must be deepened by demand for accountancy

By Olajide Fashikun

Journalists have been challenged to rise up and explore more the right to know to be able to deepen the inclusive functions of democracy. A European Union panel of discussants reached the concensus that the more the media pursue the right, which is fundamental to human rights, can the nation’s democratic institutions become open, accountable and sustain development.

These formed that basis of the discourse at the international day on universal access to information with the theme: “The right to know: Making our democracy more inclusive” which took place at the Reiz Intercontinental hotel in Abuja on Tuesday.

In his opening remark, former minister for Information, Prince Tony Momoh said, “those who should provide information are those unwilling to give it. With the Freedom of Information Act, we have been armed with the right to know. Information is what someone does not wish to be published while the rest is advertisement.”

He challenged practitioners to go professional. “Information management should be a professional journalists task. The media is one of the most important persons in the Constitution which guarantees your rights of expression, to own, operate the media. It is a fundamental role of the media to do oversight functions on other arms of government. We need sanity in media practice to enhance our democratic gains.

Representative of the European Union in Nigeria, Stefania Marrone ‘participation is the heartbeat of democracy. A free society must ensure the right to know. There must be steady access to information.193 members of the United Nations had sought public access to information, promote peaceful and inclusive society with an accountable institutions.”

She disclosed that the European Union has been in the forefront of the Freedom of Information Act. People should employ this law for accountability and openness in the society.”

President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesman, Femi Adeshina, in his remarks urged media practitioners rather than be blood hounds should stick to professional ethical bounds of the need and the right to know. Journalism is the air on which democracy thrives and should be built.

According to him, “media practice is a mathematical function of helping our readers believe in us if and when we make the right to know the crux of our practice. It was in the military and dictatorial era we do not have the liberty but in a democracy, our roles are so important that the Constitution even ascribed special places and mention for us.”

The President’s Political Adviser, Senator Babafemi Ojudu challenged journalists to develop what he called the ‘will to know’ which is more important strategically than the right to know or the need to know.

“Those of us who practiced under military administration know that we must break concrete with the will to know. It requires going the extra mile. This is the hallmark of excellent journalism. No one will give you information for free, you must develop a strong will, if you must break the walls, do and get the required information.”

In the panel discussion were the quartet of Ms Ann Iyonu of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting; Mr Waheed Odusile the NUJ President, Mr Nnamdi Njemanze the Executive Secretary of the Press Council and Dapo Olorunyomi of Premium Times. The session was presided by Kadaria Ahmed.

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