Don’t gag media, Sanwo-Olu tells politicians amid fines on Trust TV, others

Babajide Sanwo-Olu

Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has called on politicians and public office holders not to suppress the media, an important part of any democracy.

He made the appeal on Thursday at a workshop organised by the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), themed “Journalist and Digitalisation: the imperative of Good Corporate Governance” in Ikeja, Lagos.

The governor’s statement followed the sanctions given to Trust TV, DSTV and other media outfits for airing BBC Africa Eye documentary on banditry.

Sanwo-Olu, who was the special guest of honour to declare the workshop open, said ensuring good corporate governance and self-regulation of the digital space would completely eradicate false and fake news.

His words: “I stand with you (media practitioners) in solidarity; to say that, indeed, your profession is not just a noble one, but it’s the one that gives the general public an independent assessment; holding our governance and government accountable at all times. And so, we need to be very careful as politicians and public officers that we do not gag this profession (media) and do not unduly stifle free press.

“Our government understands and appreciates that press freedom is the way in which we can hold government accountable. But it is also the responsibility of all of us here to ensure that we understand the thin line; and also self-regulate our activities.

“I cannot agree less with the President of the NGE that says that the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission should not only be independent, it should be equipped with men of impeccable character and integrity that can work like the Oxfam of this world and indeed sanction erring people but give freedom for all of you to do your work.”

Sanwo-Olu, while stressing the need for media practitioners to self-regulate themselves, urged them to work towards the complete eradication of false news.

“Regarding my view about corporate governance, it is also to ensure that in the digital space we eradicate completely within the profession false news and fake news. People sometimes rush to post something without doing proper due diligence to verify what they are posting and ask themselves what damage would I do if they found out what I posted is not completely true.

“You must be a bit more circumspect and know that once information is out there, you cannot retrieve it. That in itself puts a lot of professional pressure on whoever that is posting any report,” he said.

Speaking earlier, president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mustapha Issa, said the media would not succumb to pressure from the government to determine the people’s right to information.

He said the situation where the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) that reports to the minister of information would also be the one to unilaterally impose fines on broadcast stations for unfavourable reports was tantamount to gagging the media.