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Lai Mohammed rejects World Press Freedom Index, says Nigerian media among freest globally

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The Federal Government on Tuesday, slammed the 2021 annual World Press Freedom Index, which tagged Nigeria as a country unsafe for journalists.

This refutation was contained in a statement issued by the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed.

Segun Adeyemi, Special Assistant To The President, (Media), Office of the Minister, issued the statement on behalf of Mohammed.

Adeyemi noted that the Minister made this clarification in Abuja when he received the executive members of the Nigerian chapter of the International Press Institute (IPI) on a courtesy visit to his office.

According to the statement titled, “FG Rejects 2021 World Press Freedom Index, says Nigerian Press Among World’s Freest,” Mohammed said the Nigerian press remains among the most vibrant and freest in the world.

This was in response to an assertion by the President of IPI Nigeria, Mr. Muskilu Mojeed, who led the executive members on the visit.

Mojeed had cited the World Press Freedom Index as an example of the country’s low rating in the area of press freedom.

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However, the Minister countered, “I disagree with your assessment of press freedom under this government. Honestly, at times when I read what the media write here about Nigeria, I begin to wonder whether I live in the same country that they are writing about.

“I disagree vehemently with the assessment because it is unfounded and has no scientific basis. I have been the Minister (of Information and Culture) since 2015 so I know the state of press freedom in Nigeria.”

He clarified that some people have misconstrued government’s efforts to ensure a responsible use of social media as an attempt to tamper with press freedom or threaten independent journalism, emphasizing that the government does not harbor such intentions.

Mohammed reiterated that the present government is not a threat to the media, and that it is not about to stifle press freedom or deny anyone his or her constitutionally-guaranteed rights.

“After all, this must be one of the very few countries in the world where a section of the media can refuse to recognize popular sovereignty, or how does one describe a situation in which a President who was duly elected by millions of Nigeria is willfully stripped of that title, President, and then cheekily cloaked in the garb of a dictator by playing up his military title? Despite that abuse of press freedom, those doing that have continued to practice their profession without hindrance.

“Ours must also be one of the few countries in the world where a reputable medium will report fake news and, when called out, will not retract or apologize,” he said.

The Minister enjoined the media to always stick to their constitutional watchdog role, and not to constitute themselves into a political opposition.

He also charged IPI Nigeria to take seriously the issues of ethics, credibility and fake news, among others, in relation to the practice of journalism in the country.

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