The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has asked the federal government to save the media business from collapse through, among others, the removal of tariffs on all imported consumables used in the production process.
The editors, in a communiqué released after a Standing Committee Meeting of the NGE held in Enugu State, said the demand was not novel as governments had in the past saved ailing businesses after major global downturns, especially occasioned by the ravaging impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It acknowledged the sacrifices being made by media owners and journalists to sustain the survival of media business in these dire times; with the operating environment now almost unbearable.
The guild urged the government to regard the media as providing essential services critical for national development and hence deserves to be treated like other essential services on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19.
The communiqué, signed by NGE National President, Mr. Mustapha Isah, and General-Secretary, Ms. Mary Atolagbe, listed the removal of tariffs on newsprint and broadcasting equipment as some of the ways to help protect jobs and ensure the continued existence and operation of media organisations.
It urged government at all levels to stop seeing media operators as competitors or meddlesome interlopers, stressing that this will help erase suspicion and mistrust that have marred the relationship between governments and the media.
The guild appealed to the government and state actors to always have recourse to relevant sections of the Nigerian constitution, which gives power, responsibility and legitimacy to the media to hold public office holders accountable to the people.
It deplored the harassment and continued detention of some journalists, contrary to freedom of the press and allied rights and privileges conferred on the media, to at all times, be free to uphold the fundamental objectives of freedom of expression as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
“The body of editors also points out that using public funds to finance private sector operations to save them from bankruptcy and collapse is not new and had been adopted in other countries, including the United States of America.
“The government voted public funds to save the US automobile industry, the banking sector and other sectors from insolvency during the financial crisis of 2008 and currently the $2 trillion bailout budget in 2020 for private equities amid the COVID-19 scourge,” the guild said.
The meeting recalled that the Nigerian government had at various times in the past and during the COVID-19 era voted public money as intervention funds for other sectors of the economy, including the aviation industry, which at this moment is largely private-sector driven.
It said, however, that the media appeared to have been excluded in all government interventions, through such agencies as the Central Bank and the Bank of Industry (BOI).
The guild endorsed the position of the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) and Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), both of which have made strong appeals to the federal government for financial intervention to ensure that the media continues to discharge its constitutional duty, stressing that the survival of the media is essential in sustaining and deepening democracy.
It expressed worry at the growing insecurity across the nation and urged security agencies to step up their efforts to contain the scourge.
“The guild warns all individuals and groups fanning the embers of war, hate and divisions to desist from such acts, as they serve no good but do incalculable damage to the fabric of our national existence and cohesion,” it stated.
The editors congratulated the Acting Inspector General of Police, Alkali Baba, on his appointment and urged him to ensure that the war against crimes, including terrorism, kidnapping and armed robbery, is not only won but that the victory is sustained.
Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja