The United States of America has said unrestricted press is an essential condition for a strong and responsive democracy.
The US also described Nigeria’s media space as one of the liveliest in Africa, but urged the practitioners not to forget in their reports the plights of residents of urban slums and rural areas.
Speaking at a day workshop in Osogbo, Osun State on Thursday, organised by Rave 91.7-FM Foundation on Media Content and Inclusive Governance for newsmen drawn from Ekiti, Osun, Oyo, Ondo and Kwara states, the Public Affairs Officer, US Consulate, Lagos, Russell Brooks, explained that residents of slum and rural areas believe that journalists, like politicians, don’t remember them in their reports.
He, however, urged newsmen not to lose their thirst for truth and always focus their reports on residents of underserved communities, saying the society depends on journalists to tell their stories.
Brooks said, “The US strongly supports freedom of the press. Unfettered press is essential for a strong and responsive democracy. Before my arrival in Nigeria about three and a half years ago, I read about the courage and sheer doggedness of the Nigerian press during the dark days of military dictatorship and thankfully, those days are behind us.
“The Nigerian media scene is one of the liveliest in Africa. And I have spoken with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Nigerians about the media, about democracy, governance and history of Nigeria. Thus the media must leave something to be desired because residents of underserved communities in rural areas and urban slums believe that politicians and the media often forget about them.
“They are plagued with health problems, lack of access to potable water, drug addiction, lack of resources and lack of jobs. Nevertheless, coverage of these problems in underserved communities, especially among major new outlets, is often uncovered.
“As journalists, the multilateral society depends on you to tell their stories not to purely focus on the rich and the powerful.”