The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) on Thursday urged media professionals to refrain from promoting fake news, axe-grinding, and sensationalism in their reportage of issues and events in the country.
Malami, who stated this in a keynote address at the 2021 national conference of the National Association of Judiciary Correspondents (NAJUC), Abuja chapter, said that achieving good democratic governance was not the sole responsibility of the judiciary alone, but that of the entire critical stakeholders, including the media as the watchdog of the Nigerian public and fourth estate of the realm.
While the judiciary is expected to look into issues brought before it for proper adjudication, Malami said, the press was expected to give balanced, unbiased and untainted reports of activities unfolding in the society.
The minister, who was represented by his Special Assistant, Media and Public Relations, Dr Umar Gwandu said: “The media, especially those on the judiciary beat have not done badly as cases of deliberate misrepresentation of information, distortion of facts, outright falsehood and undue sensationalism have been reduced to the bearest minimum. To whom much is given, much is expected”.
He said the government, under President Muhammadu Buhari was not against criticism, adding: “The government is, indeed, open to constructive and objective criticisms where appropriate solutions are proffered. This, we consider as an integral part of good governance.”
According to the Minister, the Federal Government had done everything within the constitutional provisions to ensure the right to access to information, freedom of expression and especially press freedom.
“This can be seen from the disappearance of the incessant harassment, intimidation, molestation, arrests, and prosecution of media professionals as used to be the practice in the past regimes.
“This fact is attested to by the 2020 report of the Committee to Protect Journalists that Nigeria is no longer in the list of countries with impunity for crimes against journalists. The report maintained that Nigeria is the only country in the globe that got off the index from 2019,” he said.
The minister said the media, having done so much to ensure the enthronement of democracy, the successes recorded on whistle-blowing policy, the fight against corruption and generally good governance, must take some steps forward in giving adequate protection to democracy through objectivity and deep sense of patriotism.
He charged media professionals to be above board by avoiding partisan politics in their reportage and avoid deliberate falsehood, blackmail, name calling against government, its officers and its institutions.
Nigerians, Malami said, wanted to be objectively informed on the activities of the government and called on the media to support the government in its quest to make life more meaningful to Nigerians.
On the Independence of the Judiciary and challenges of financial autonomy, the lm
minister said the Federal government had taken and maintained the lead in ensuring autonomy for the judiciary at the national level.
The Federal Government, he said, had signed into law Executive Order 10 on Autonomy and Independence of State Legislature and the Judiciary, which he said, was a constitutional provision that must be adhered to.
Earlier, in his speech, the chairman, Abuja chapter of NAJUC, Kayode Lawal, decried the continued reduction in the budgetary allocation to the judiciary.
“More than any other arm of government, the judiciary is burdened, the workload is much that judges now work both day and night in order to cope with challenges of adjudicating on political issues, especially time bound political cases,” Lawal stated.
While calling for proper funding of the judiciary to cope with the enormous challenges facing the sector, he called on the AGF to use his office in making government see reasons and the need to give adequate attention to budgetary needs of the Judiciary.
The conference is themed: “The role of the Judiciary in achieving good democratic governance”, with “Appraising the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 five years after”, and, “Independence of the Judiciary and challenges of financial autonomy, the way forward “ as sub-themes.