Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday, tasked media practitioners on the need for responsible journalism as a means of instilling good governance and democratic principles.

He gave the charge while declaring the 67th World Congress of International Press Institute (IPI) opened at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The president said dynamics of the information age has shown that responsible journalism would naturally negate the promotion of hate speech including propagation of fake news in any discerning society.

“In a world where the borderline between hate speech and free speech has become blurred, good journalism matters. In an environment where fake news dwarfs investigative reporting, Good Journalism Matters. For survival in an increasingly competitive field, Good Journalism Matters. Good journalism promotes Good Governance. I therefore urge participants to give depth to the topic in your discussions and conclusions,” he said.

President Buhari reiterated steps taken by his administration to decimate the terrorists group, Boko Haram, saying the development which has brought about relative peace in the country may have necessitated the hosting of the IPI congress in Abuja for the first time.

IPI Executive Director, Barbara Triinfi in her remarks at the opening of IPI World Congress, lamented that independent journalism is under attack and press freedom has eroded all over the world.

Triinfi said, “As we gather here today from different countries to open IPI’s 67th World Congress, there is a sense that independent journalism is under attack and press freedom has eroded all over the world. From Mexico to the Philippines, from Zimbabwe to Turkey, from Russia to Ethiopia, journalists are being imprisoned.

“They are denied access to justice. They are threatened and insulted on social media.  They are directly targeted and labeled as traitors and enemies of the state and they are killed, shot in front of their houses, on their way to work by killers who know that murdering journalists is the easiest way to silence them and ensure that the stories of corruption they were investigating, the wrongdoings they had uncovered will never be revealed. “At least 43 journalists have been killed so far in 2018 in places like Afghanistan, Mexico, India, Pakistan or the Philippines to mention a few.

“Also here in Nigeria, a country with a very lively news industry which enjoys a good degree of press freedom, safety has been a serious problem for journalists, not only those covering the areas where insurgents are active but also journalists covering corruption have been targeted.”

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The NPAN Chairman and Chair of IPI conference LOC, Nduka Obaigbena, assured that the organisation was working to solve the issues of journalist incarceration in the country.

“With regards to the journalist incarcerated, we have a way of engaging and resolving our problems. We will solve that too.

“As journalists in Nigeria, as Uncle Sam says, the press fight for the rights of all Nigerians. We have continued to do that and we have continued to enjoy free press. We also have overzealous security agents. So, should there be any challenges, we ‘ll resolve that too.

“Having said that, we are here about journalism and why it matters. In the last few days or few weeks, we were witnesses to the overreach of executive authority over immigration in the US and with the role of robust journalism, President Trump was able to reverse such by ensuring that families remain families and never separated.

“Immigration remains one central issue all over the world. In Europe and on the sea of Mediterranean, a lot of Africans are dying.

If we all can also report it in a robust way, perhaps we can also reverse this. The issue of course, l believe is economic. With $3 or $4 million dollars here in Nigeria, we can keep them here. That is what we can do, if we report and throw light on the circumstances they face. The issue is purely economic and we can resolve our problems here. So, we just have to do more and throw light on these issues.

“Yes, Nigeria is facing security challenges and we are trying to deal with it in the panel here but we must also remember where it started. After democracy came, we were not concerned about the size of our security forces with regards to our armed forces, with regards to our police.

“I believe the sizes of our police and armed forces are not enough. Before Boko Haram set sail, we didn’t think of security. Now, we are confronted by a menace and we all have to put our heads together to rebuild our total security infrastructure, bring police team to the communities, to the cities so that we can ensure the safety of our citizens and therefore produce economic growth.

“The world is interested in how Nigeria fares. I believe this is what we can play about in this IPI conference.”