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Nigerian journalists urged to focus on reporting human rights matters

Journalists in Nigeria have been challenged to take up their roles as watchdogs and ensure accountability of the government on human rights issues in Nigeria.

The call was made at an online training organised by Human Rights Journalists’ Network (HRJN) tagged; “Watching, Investigating and Reporting Human Rights In Nigeria.”

Speaking at the seminar, Babatunde Olugboji, the Deputy Director, Human Rights Watch, said that there are many human rights violations that do not count as human rights issues in Nigeria and many journalists do not pay attention to them.

“Some of the things we don’t count as human right issues for example cheating of people on circumstantial disabilities, people who are chained in place of treatment at religious organisation, trafficking women, the issue of rape, gender-based violence around us,” he said.

Mr Olugboji added that forced eviction and issues relating to economic, social, cultural rights are human issues around the world, some of which do not count in Nigeria.

Acknowledging that corruption is a grave challenge in Nigeria and many other parts of the world, the speaker said that it is not a human rights issue.

“Corruption is not a human right issue, it could be and could not be. Basically, corruption is a level of illegality. When there is corruption that is impacting the ability of Nigeria to fulfil its human rights obligation, then it is a human right issue. For example, if schools are not operating because money meant for salaries of teachers has been mismanaged then that would be classified as a human right issue,” he said.

Mr Olugboji said journalists must be aware of human rights issues for them to effectively tackle them.

“The media plays a very important role exposing social news which includes corruption and then seeking to keep those in the position of authority accountable through critical reporting which is also very important and at the end of the day transparency and openness actually provide the best protection on extreme use of power.”

He charged human rights journalists to desist from reporting human issues on the surface, but investigate and get to the root of the matter before reporting them.

He said human rights areas that are not being given adequate attention include gender inequality, the rights of children, the issue of trafficking of children, people with disabilities, education, health, housing, and other areas.

Mr Olugboji urged participants at the training to develop the right approach of reporting by shedding light on human rights issues rather than complicate situations in their reports.

“As a journalist reporting on human rights, there are some things you need to do in terms of commitment, that’s part of keeping the public informed. We as journalists have the right of opportunity to increase public awareness and also educate the public about their right and above all, help monitor human rights.”

Speaking at the training, Kehinde Adegboyega, the Coordinator of Human Rights Journalists Network (HRJN), said journalists should be more consistent on reporting human right violations and also do collaborative reporting, when necessary.

“Human right issues have not been given a lot of attention that is necessary in Nigeria, there is a need to enlighten the community so we can reduce the rate of human right violations in Nigeria,” he said.