THE European Union (EU)Delegation to Nigeria has described Nigeria’s brand of democracy as the best in Africa.
Ambassador and head of the EU delegation, Mr. Michel Arrion, commended the country for running the most vibrant democracy in Africa with absolute press freedom.
Arrion said this at the 2016 World Press Freedom Day celebration with the theme: “Access to information and fundamental freedom: This is your right,” in Abuja yesterday.
He described the freedom the Nigerian media enjoyed as an asset and added that freedom of opinion and expression was essential in enjoying a wide range of other human rights. Nigeria, in our assessment, is a country where freedom of expression is in general respected, the traditional media is relatively pluralistic, bloggers and cyber activists share their views. Nigeria boasts of a large, vibrant social media community, whose engagement with the socio-political processes has enriched public discourse and widened the frontier of participation on issues that concerns the citizenry.” Arrion added that these significant steps underlined the priority the EU accorded to freedom of opinion and expression as an essential foundation for democracy. He said the EU recognised that free, diverse, independent media were essential for the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression.
“By facilitating the free flow of information and ideas on matters of public interest, and by ensuring transparency and accountability, independent media constitute one of the cornerstones of democracy.” He said an informed, active and engaged citizenry is not possible without free, independent and pluralistic media.
He lauded the role of social media activists in deepening public discourse, shaping public opinion and promoting transparency and accountability in the country.
Arrion said social media had thrown up new challenges, adding that all human rights that existed offline must be protected online in terms of freedom of opinion, expression and right to privacy.
At the event, Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said freedom of information was good for Nigerians.
He said mechanism for its operation was simple and stressed that the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act has succeeded in creating accountability and probity in governance.
The minister said it had enabled Nigerians participate in governance and hence it had succeeded in curbing corruption.
“Nigeria has free and independent press and they are now more comfortable with the press.”
He called on UNESCO to ensure that the right of information was enhanced and protected in Nigeria and promised that the government would put machinery in place to ensure that the FoI was not abused.