INTERVIEW: How Nigerian university campuses can entrench press freedom


The National Union of Campus Journalists, Nigeria (NUCJ) in collaboration with Help Foundation hosted the Publisher of PREMIUM TIMES newspaper, Dapo Olorunyomi, to a Tweetchat on Sunday, to commemorate this year’s World Press Freedom Day 2021.

The chat was held on the NUCJ Twitter page to discuss the theme: ‘Resilient Campus Journalism: Key Element in Education Reform.’

Mr Olorunyomi is also the co-founder and CEO of PREMIUM TIMES, which today is one of the most trusted newspapers in Nigeria and a standard for African investigative journalism. He is the Board Chairman, National Union of Campus Journalists, Nigeria (NUCJ). Excerpts of the Tweetchat below:

NUCJ: What is your philosophy about Press Freedom?

Olorunyomi: First and foremost, that journalism serves to promote and defend core democratic values. It must serve as a people’s tribune against arbitrary power. It must give concrete consequences to the accountability of governing processes – political, cultural, economic.

On the second end of the question: our campuses incubate leaders of our country. So, inculcating traditions of freedom as part of their emergence is a multiplier force for the kind of society we want to build in the future.

NUCJ: There is no press freedom on Nigeria’s campuses,” is this claim correct and why should it be important?

Olorunyomi: Campuses are microsets of the larger Nigerian community. By all parameters, press freedom is deteriorating in Nigeria as a whole. That answers the question by half. However, the challenge, always, is to struggle to extend the context and boundaries of freedom. If we want to fully entrench press freedom on our campuses, we must understand the ramification of the concept itself. There are four key components: [a] the legislative context created by campus regulations, [b] the independence offered through training, ethics, [c] the pluralism offered by the diversity of content and actors like the gender inclusivity of campus journos and [d] the safety of campus journos. To entrench the regime of press freedom on campuses we need to build these four pillars concretely.

NUCJ: Do you have any hope in the Student Bill of Rights to protect campus journalists?

Olorunyomi: I have not seen or studied the bill. I look forward to seeing it. However, it can be a potent force of change if managed with skill, and an inclusive constituency of campus actors built to sell it. It can make a difference to traditions of freedom across the board.

NUCJ: On a final note, our goal is to call public attention to the erosion of press freedom on Nigeria’s campuses, are we paranoid? What can be done? Your suggestions sir.

Olorunyomi: No, you are not. Campuses need to be freed. Backstory: Dec 1982 @ 3rd Annual conference of NANS, we passed an idealistic Charter of Demands to democratise education in Nigeria. It became the basis of many educational reforms of the 90s. Let’s go back to history and build back better!


Participants’ Questions

Gbolagade Sunday: How can we ascertain press freedom when the financial capability of such institution’s editorial board lies in the hand of the Management and Students’ Union in that school?

Olorunyomi: True, a financially disabled press can hardly be functional, independent, pluralistic, or even safe. However, this is a call-up to creativity. We need new strategies on how to finance campus in the new age. I sense that the current exco has reinvigorated the NUCJ to a new active tempo. What needs to be added are fresh strategies on how to finance our activities. That is the next gap to be filled.

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