….As some human rights activists in Nigeria, including Mr. Femi Falana, SAN; Richard Akinnola, and Omoyele Sowore, yesterday, tasked the media to report human rights abuses by the current administration.
In a significant step towards enhancing human rights advocacy and reporting in Nigeria, Amnesty International Nigeria’s Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani, addressed a gathering of journalists and media practitioners at the “Human Rights Media Parley Agenda 2023” held at the Sheraton Ikeja in Lagos yesterday.
Rafsanjani began his remarks by expressing gratitude to the media for their continuous support of Amnesty International’s human rights work in Nigeria, acknowledging that their coverage of Amnesty’s press releases, reports, and briefings has played a pivotal role in shedding light on various human rights issues in the country.
However, the Chairman highlighted the importance of improved reportage on certain human rights abuses that have occurred in recent times but received limited media attention. He urged for greater synergy between Amnesty International and journalists to address this issue and to collectively advance the cause of human rights and justice in Nigeria.
“This media roundtable served as an opportunity for the media to engage directly with Amnesty International representatives and gain insights into the organization’s human rights agenda and strategies. Rafsanjani emphasized the willingness of Amnesty International to partner with the media in documenting, reporting, and exposing human rights violators and seeking justice for victims.
“A key aspect of this collaboration involves educating journalists and media practitioners about the human rights situation in Nigeria, enabling them to better understand the realities on the ground and forming a strong network of human rights reporters across the country.
Amnesty International plans to equip journalists with the necessary tools for human rights documentation and reporting, while also building a network of media professionals to disseminate Amnesty’s work both in Nigeria and globally. This network will enable real-time reporting of human rights violations.
Rafsanjani discussed the need for journalists to intensify calls for accountability within the military and security agencies, emphasizing the inclusion of accountability mechanisms in Nigeria’s military framework.
He further highlighted the delayed impact of human rights panels set up in the country, including the army-led Special Board of Inquiry and the Presidential Investigative Panel. The reports of these panels are yet to be made public despite Nigeria’s commitment to do so. Rafsanjani called on the media to follow up on ensuring that the panel reports are published, and their recommendations implemented. Only Lagos State has made its report public out of 29 states and the FCT.
Also, Rafsanjani unveiled Amnesty International’s “Human Rights Agenda 2023,” which analyzes the existing human rights framework in Nigeria and identifies gaps. He urged the media to provide the necessary coverage to ensure that these gaps are addressed by the National Assembly, further promoting human rights in the country.
The event marked a significant step towards strengthening collaboration between Amnesty International Nigeria and the media, with the ultimate goal of advancing human rights and justice in Nigeria.
In his remarks, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN; lamented that Nigeria has very good human right laws but fails to implement them when the need arises.
Also speaking, Mr. Alabi Williams, who described the media as a channels of storing and distributing content for purposes of public information and education, hence the mediums of broadcasting, print media, digital media, advertising, cinema and photography. Human rights are natural liberties that are inherent to all human beings, irrespective of race, gender, nationality, ethnicity, language, status or religion.
The United Nations lists rights to include: Rights to life, human dignity, fair hearing, freedom of thought, conscience and religion and right to associate and movement.
According to him, the key elements that strengthen media responsibility with regards to protection of rights pluralism in content, giving equal opportunities, diversity in ownership. The freedom of expression is the “freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers – Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
On his part, Richard Akinnola at the parley stressed that one of the most potent forces in International politics today is the issue of Human Rights. He however emphasized that pioneering work of Peter Benenson, in founding the Amnesty International in 1961 was the catalyst which propelled four of them – Olisa Agbakoba, Clement Nwankwo. Abdul Oroh and himself, to establish the first human Rights body in Nigeria -Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) on October 15, 1987. He added that at its inception, the CLO had a synergy with the media, a working relationship that helped in our advocacy on human rights.
“There is no doubt that the struggle for human rights and egalitarian society requires a synergy between the media and human Rights community.
I’m not oblivious of the challenges the human rights community are currently facing in terms of credibility due to the abuse the community has been subjected to by political actors who set up some nondescript, amorphous groups masquerading as NGOs.
“However, for every fake product, there must be an original. Amnesty international is the progenitor of various human rights groups in the country, including Nigeria. For over six decades, it has established a reputation as the foremost human rights body in the world.
“So, you can therefore imagine my embarrassment some few years ago, when some political actors in the Buhari government, hired some miscreants, masquerading as civil society organizations, to picket the Abuja office of Amnesty international for days, just because the government became uncomfortable with the unassailable reports of the Amnesty regarding the impunity of the Nigerian army in its war on Boko Haram” Akinnola noted.
Photography Credit: Michael Christian/Amnesty International