Wednesday, May 3, 2017


By Sodiq Lawal

Today is World Press Freedom Day and it’s not a public holiday for the Press. It is a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of
press freedom.

May 3 was declared WPFD by the United Nations in 1993 after a 1991 UN  conference held in Windhoek,Namibia,
where African newspaper journalists presented a paper on press freedom

The paper is famously called
the Windhoek Declaration. World Press Freedom Day is to celebrate
the fundamental principles of press
freedom, evaluate press freedom around the world, defend the media from attacks on their independence, pay tribute to journalists who have lost their
lives in exercise of the profession,
inform the citizens of violations of press freedom, encourage and develop initiatives in favour of press freedom worldwide and to serve as a reminder of press ethics.

Specifically, let me first remember the death of our prolific journalist in Nigeria. Late Dele Giwa who died on 19th October 1986.

Sunday October 19, 1986 was like any other day in the somnolence of Every countryside.

The tall rubber trees that seemed to form an impregnable fortress round our dwellings stood where they were, firm and stolid, but occasionally swaying to the lulling breeze that usually blew now and then.

The cassava vegetation, shrubs and tall elephant grass also must have rustled. It was October, the season when the sun shines with a
lulling and enchanting caress in the morning and gradually metamorphoses
into a haunting intensity at noon.

We went about our domestic and farm chores as we prepared for the new school week.

Then, the ambience was almost edenic. But somewhere in Lagos, at 25 Talabi
street Ikeja, the atmosphere was an agonising contrast with the idyllic Evwreni scenario. At 25 Talabi Street,
there was wailing, lamentation, grief,
confusion and other indices that the fiends of hell were visiting. A substantial part of
the house that bore number 25 had been shattered and charred by a bomb
explosion. A television set, louvers, chairs,
a table, breakfast set and other domestic appurtenances were blown apart and charred.

In the midst of that midday Armageddon was also the bruised and bloodied body of Sumonu Oladele Giwa, style-named Dele Giwa. In the throes of indescribable pain, Dele Giwa moaned
agonizingly and sustained the refrain.

"They have got me!". Dele Giwa was at home having a late breakfast with a
colleague, Kayode Soyinka when a
postman brought a parcel addressed to him. The parcel was delivered to his eldest son, Billy; then 19 years old. Billy handed
the parcel over to his father. The latter looked the parcel over and commented "this must be from the president", because it bore the seal of the President of the
Federal Republic of Nigeria. Dele Giwa
tried to open the parcel and lo, it emitted a deafening and deadly explosion!

The parcel was a letter bomb meant to blow Dele Giwa out of existence. The bomb badly lacerated Dele Giwa's body, but he
didn't die immediately.

He was rushed to
the hospital and he sustained the
refrain'they have got me!". He gave up the ghost.

Dele Giwa was, at the time of his death, the editor-in-chief of Newswatch magazine, Nigeria's, and probably Africa's,
most prestigious news magazine.

"There was once a journalist on the 19 of October when they killed our journalist Dele Giwa, Dele Giwa
Dele Giwa you are gone. Dele Giwa, our journalist, We shall never forget you!'"

However the killing of journalists never end there, A Columbian journalist who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper on 17 December 1986. Cano’s writings had offended Colombia’s powerful drug barons. It has been won once by a
Nigerian – Christina Anyanwu, who was imprisoned by Gen. Sani Abacha for reporting on a failed coup d’etat against the government.

There are about 80 World Press
Freedom event going on around the world today. Special contents will also feature across some blogs and television
all over the world.

A special selection of press cartoons has also been curated for showing by UNESCO and Cartooning for
Peace, an international organisation founded by former UN Secretary-
General and Nobel Peace Prize for
Literature winner, Kofi Anan.

A free press is
impossible without the co-operation of
the government and public. World Press Freedom Day drives home the need for
everyone to sharpen their minds to defend the freedoms — free, independent, and pluralistic media — that are essential for justice inquace.

From Sodiq Lawal, Ile Ife, Osun State

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