While speaking during the commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day organised by the Public Affairs Unit of the U.S. Consulate in Lagos Thursday, the United States Consul General, John Bray, pledged his government’s commitment to ensuring free, credible, peaceful and decent elections in Nigeria, come 2019.
Themed, “Media and the Transparency of the 2019 Elections”, Bray was among the speakers and panelists at the event that spoke extensively on the safety of journalists, transparency of the media, and electoral disputes pertaining to the forthcoming elections.
In his speech, Bray said: “The United States values the freedom of the press as a key component of democratic governance.
“I have been in Nigeria for nearly six years. I have been Consul General since 2015 and as CG, I have visited each of the 17 states in southern Nigeria, almost all of them on multiple locations.
“I have spoken with hundreds, perhaps thousands of Nigerians about democracy, elections, and the history of Nigeria.
“These conversations have confirmed my belief that Nigeria has a vibrant democracy. Democratic societies are not infallible but they are accountable, and the exchange of ideas is the foundation for accountable governance.
“Peaceful and credible elections are essential to Nigeria’s continued economic, political, and social development so I am interested in your discussions today on media and the transparency of the 2019 election.
“Nigeria plays a vital role on the world stage and as the largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria’s stability is crucial to the security and economic prosperity of the rest of the continent.
“Nigeria’s future is full of promise and opportunity. The U.S. government is dedicated to supporting Nigerians in ensuring that the 2019 elections will be transparent, credible, and peaceful.”
On the role of journalists in the electioneering process he said: “Before I joined the Department of State I was a reporter. Based on my experience, I know that as reporters and editors each of you has an important role to play in the electoral process.
“You will foster active debate, provide investigative reporting, and serve as a forum to express different points of view.
“When people don’t have the facts, they make them up and that creates unstable environments, rife with rumours, gossip and lies.
“And you as journalists, make sure this doesn’t happen by providing information, researching, conducting interviews, and then educating the electorate.
“The people of Nigeria rely on your unbiased and accurate coverage of the campaign season and the elections. That is why your role is so important.
“As the 2019 election draws near, the U.S. mission supports your efforts to provide objective and balanced reporting to the Nigerian people.”