Mr Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, has urged the media to ensure effective utilisation of the Freedom of Information Act, to promote transparency and accountability in governance.
Adesina made the call at a Roundtable to mark the International Day on Universal Access to Information, organised by European Union in collaboration with the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), on Tuesday in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the FOI Act was signed into law by the former President Goodluck Jonathan on May 28, 2011.
Section 1(1) of the Act establishes the right of any person to access or request information, whether is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution.
However, the FOI act does not have the same effect on the National Security Agencies Act because this Act is entrenched in the constitution.
The Presidential spokesperson said that proper usage of FOI Act by the media would enhance citizen’s access to information and deepen good democratic culture in the country.
He noted that without access to information democracy could never be transparent, saying “ when there is no access to information government cannot be held accountable by citizens.”
Adesina decried poor usage of FOI Act by the media, adding that legal practitioners and Civil Societies use the act more than the media, who are seen to be the owners of the act.
“ The media doesn’t even use FOI Act like CSOs and lawyers. It is not a favour when public or private institutions give information to the media on request.
“ Media should use FOI Act a lot more and there are provisions which can compel Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to release information to the media, Adesina said.
He, however, advised media practitioners to draw a line between “rights to know and hoarding of information by public officials.
“ My experience as a spokesperson of the president, I notice some levels of cynicism in the media, “ he said.
The former Minister of Information and Culture, Chief Tony Momoh, stressed the need for the media to perform effective oversight functions on the Legislative, Executive and Judicial arms of government.
He said that the constitution had empowered the media to hold government organs accountable to the people in the work they do.
Ms Stefania Marrone, Representatives of European Union (EU), said that the right to seek and receive information was a basic human rights and an integral part of the rights of freedom of expression.
Marrone, therefore, urged journalists, CSOs, bloggers and cyber activist to fully explore the provisions of FOI act to ensure transparency and the accountability in governance.