Preserving Democracy: Nurturing Government-Journalists Alliance

By Furera Isiaka and Sabi’u Babawa

Preserving democracy centres on cultivating a strong partnership between the government and journalists. Recognised as the fourth estate of the realm, journalists play a crucial role in distributing information that molds public perspectives. It is essential to ensure their protection from any form of targeting or mistreatment, as they act as diligent custodians of truth within society.

Between 2006 and 2023, over 1,600 journalists across the globe tragically lost their lives, with a concerning 90 percent of these cases unresolved in terms of justice, as outlined by the UNESCO Observatory of Killed Journalists. The widespread impunity not only sustains a distressing cycle of violence against journalists but also serves as a stark indicator of the escalating crisis in conflict zones, characterised by the erosion of legal and judicial systems. It is imperative to emphasise that addressing impunity is not only pivotal for the sake of justice but is also an indispensable measure in averting further harm and loss of journalists’ lives, crucially upholding the rule of law.

Regrettably, recent disclosures from the Committee to Protect Journalists have exposed a profoundly disconcerting trend. In 2022 alone, an alarming 67 journalists and media workers met untimely deaths. Premium Times in Nigeria has underscored a disturbing pattern where state actors play a significant role in orchestrating assaults on journalists. These attacks manifest in various distressing forms, ranging from explicit threats and persistent harassment to arbitrary arrests, destruction or confiscation of equipment, physical assaults, and the denial of access to vital information.

As part of responsible governance, government officials should recognise journalists as vital partners rather than rivals. An administration that is responsible should view a free press as an asset that contributes to the transparency and accountability that are fundamental to a prosperous democracy. It is imperative that the government and the press maintain mutual respect in order to create an environment in which journalists can uncover the truth without fear of reprisals.

A genuine democracy not only tolerates but actively nurtures a free press. It should provide a reservation where journalists can fulfill their duty without intimidation, facilitating the dissemination of information vital for an informed citizenry. Any deviation from this democratic standard is not only concerning but fundamentally contrary to the principles that underpin a healthy democracy.

However, this call for protection does not absolve journalists from their professional responsibilities. Upholding ethical standards is paramount, and any deviation from truthful reporting should be met with appropriate consequences. This underscores the importance of maintaining the integrity of the journalism profession.

Therefore, a harmonious relationship between the government and the press is not a luxury but a necessity for the vitality of a democracy. This delicate balance ensures that citizens are well-informed and empowered to participate meaningfully in shaping the trajectory of their nation. Anything less than this collaborative alliance is a disservice to the democratic principles upon which a just and equitable society rests.

Furera Isiaka and Sabi’u Habibu Babawa write from the Resource Centre for Huma Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED).

Photo source: The Guardian


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