Christy Anyanwu

Nigerian journalists have been reminded of the fundamental role the media plays in a democratic setting.

The Public Affairs Officer of the United States Consulate in Lagos, Russell Brooks made the remark on the occasion of the celebration of the 2019 World Press Day organized by the Consulate.

The envoy noted that the important factor in democracy is the citizens’ right to vote and to express their votes in responsible action. On the challenges faced by journalists in discharging their duties, Russell said the media are always under pressure all over the world, “not just here in Nigeria or in the United States but around the world.

“Whether it is economic pressure, whether it is physical intimidation, violence and in some cases it has resulted into greater pain, the media pay the ultimate price. For that reason we deserve to honour them at least once every year for the role they play. In every U.S nation, we choose to utilize world press freedom day to mark our colleagues in the media, who were there to uphold their hands”.

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In her keynote address, lecturer, Broadcast Journalism, Howard University, Prof Jennifer Thomas said the “United Nations has a Plan of Action to combat crimes against the press which addresses six areas: academic research; standard-setting and policy making; awareness-raising; monitoring and reporting; capacity building; and coalition building. “

On how to detect fake news, she said:  “My basic advice: be skeptical, consider the source, check the URL, look at the byline and quotes, and review the photo. Be a curious journalist- question everything”.

She pointed out measures international organizations including UN, UNESCO could deploy to ensure the safety of journalists, stressing that as conferences are taking place all over the world to mark The World Press Freedom Day, the narrative is calling on governments around the world to make sure that journalists who are performing their work are protected.

Giving insight to the situation in the U.S., Thomas said “in the U.S. journalists have been coined as the “enemy of the people” and arbitrators of “fake news.” While the relationship between the president and the press has traditionally been a “frosty one,” the recent verbal attacks have led to increased incidents of intimidation and sometimes even violence against journalists by citizens.

“In fact, Black female journalists have been blatantly disrespected just for performing their fundamental role as defenders of democracy and freedom fighters of the First Amendment”.