Members of the Nigeria Union of Journalists yesterday joined their counterparts across the world in celebrating the World Press Freedom Day, with a call on President Olusegun Obasanjo to sign the Freedom of Information Bill into law.

The Bill, which was passed by the National Assembly, had been sent to the President on March 23, but Obasanjo was recently quoted to have said he had serious problems with the title, as well as some provisions in the Bill.

But speaking at the commemoration of the World Press Freedom day in Abuja yesterday, National President of NUJ, Mr Ndagene Akwu, expressed deep concern about non-passage of the Bill that had practically been struggling for passage right through Obasanjo’s two terms.

“Democracy depends absolutely on informed citizens, and in order to play their part in a democracy, citizens must have unhindered access to free, diverse and independent news media. It is our belief that the impediments working against the practice of journalism will be drastically reduced with the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill. We expect the president to sign the Bill into law, even if it’s on the 28th of May. No government can afford to toy with the Freedom of Information.”

Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission, Mrs Kehinde Ajoni, described the theme “Press Freedom, Safety of Journalists and Impunity,” as apt, considering the hostile environment journalists practice their profession globally.

She said it was only recently that the media started focusing on human rights, “though they too suffer human rights abuses.

“We shall continue to promote free press, because it is only when media freedom is protected that it can fight for human rights.”

In support of the World Press Freedom Day, the U.S. government said it views freedom of the press as a key component of democracy.

The U.S., in a press statement made available to THISDAY in Abuja, yesterday affirmed that “free exchange of ideas fosters accountable government, and allows the view points of many, including the marginalised in a society to be heard.”