The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, James Enwistle has during a courtesy call on the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku lately, acknowledged the existence of freedom from regulation and government control in the Nigerian media practice.
He also noted that his tour of duty to various countries has exposed him to media restrictions, saying on the contrary, the media in Nigeria are open for robust debates and news reports.
“I have served in countries where the media is very restricted and there is tight government control of the media and so on. So, it’s been a pleasure to come to Nigeria and as I was discussing with the Minister to find that the media scene, it seems to me, is completely wide open. I can say that having recently spent a lot of time on television and being asked some tough questions by journalists without complaint is a good thing,” he said.
James Enwistle observed that it is gratifying for governments to remain open and promote the sharing of information between government and citizens, so as to enhance public confidence and transparency in government activities.
He further described as healthy the aspect that the Nigerian government just as the US is getting over itself as well as loosening up to openness, transparency and the sharing of information. He also pointed out that the government works for the people; averring that if the people want to know about government functions, where their taxes go and how they are used, they have the right to request that information.
Enwistle disclosed that in the United States, it is difficult for governments to go down that road, indicating that he was impressed with the progress which Nigeria has made in that direction and wishes to congratulate the nation. He lauded the quality of journalism in Nigeria, describing it as high with knowledgeable journalists working in the media.
In his remarks, the Information Minister, Labaran Maku said that President Goodluck Jonathan’s commitment to free media and access to information is responsible for the signing into law of the Freedom of Information Act, which was to promote transparency and accountability. He further revealed that the government is supporting the development of the media because of the vital roles they play especially in democratic practices.
“We believe as a country that given our experiences, we needed to deliberately support the media to develop, to be free and that is exactly what we did in 2011 when the President signed the Freedom of Information Act into law. We have also more than any country in the continent, the highest number of private newspapers, television stations and radio stations and these are very active. They operate freely without constraint within the bounds of the constitution”, he remarked.
Maku stated that the Federal Ministry of Information is actively utilising the Social Media to engage and inform Nigerians on the activities and programmes of government because of the huge population of forty-eight million Nigerians on the internet.
According to the Minister, the Information Ministry has introduced programmes such as the Ministerial Platform to enable cabinet ministers and heads of some agencies render the scorecard of their stewardship live on a multi-media platform. Also, the National Good Governance Tour has been instituted to physically verify and inspect ongoing government projects by the media and civil society organisations, in order to promote accountability in governance.
Labaran Maku told the ambassador that President Jonathan is implementing reforms in some critical sectors and these have opened up the economy to private and foreign investments. He mentioned that despite security challenges, Nigeria is the preferred destination for Foreign Direct Investment in Africa because of the confidence investors have in the economy’s growth rate of 7% per annum.
The Information Minister noted that the country has witnessed free and fair elections under the President Jonathan administration which has stabilized the political system and enhanced democracy in the country.
“Due to the reforms that have come on board, the economy has been growing at about 7% per annum. A lot of activities are going on – cement production has increased and agriculture is coming up. A lot of food has been produced through support to farmers in the aspect of seeds, among others. The private sector is participating more actively now in the economy than it used to. We are opening up a large size of the market to the people,” he expressed.
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