On Twitter, she describes herself as a journalist turned journalism professor.
Professor Jennifer Thomas, former CNN producer and current Assistant Professor of Broadcast Journalism at Howard University in Washington, D.C. will visit Nigeria’s most populous city of Lagos from April 29 to May 3 to lead reflections on press freedom around the world.
The trip is sponsored by the United States Department of State and the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos.
Her visit, to help the United States Consulate General mark this year’s World Press Freedom Day, comes at a perilous time for journalism.
From the United States to the Philippines, Venezuela to Sudan, journalism is under attack, especially from the White House where President Donald Trump has popularized the term “fake news“.
Mr Trump has particularly launched relentless attacks against CNN where Thomas was a staff.
Dictators around the world, including many strongmen in Africa, have started using the “fake news” slogan to discredit the media and arrest and jail journalists.
Thomas’ visit also comes at a time governments around the world are afraid of the power of the new media, especially Facebook, Google and Twitter, as well as online activists and independent digital platforms like TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C. which are reaching millions of people far away from the newsrooms.
“I’m very honored, humbled and excited to serve as the invited speaker for the Media Speaker Program sponsored by the United States Department of State and the U.S. Consulate General Lagos, Nigeria,” Professor Thomas told Howard University newsroom.
“Now more than ever, journalists must unite under the auspices of world press freedom. Journalism is under attack around the world and here in the U.S. It’s vital that we discuss the issues and strategies to protect the public’s right to know under this current media landscape,” she added.
According to Howard University, Thomas visited universities in South Africa last semester, and participated in the South Africa’s Media Freedom Week on the topic of “fake news.”
She traveled with a call-to-action mission for press freedom in Pretoria, Cape Town, and Port Elizabeth.
“Additionally, Thomas was the featured speaker for a virtual program with the U.S. Embassy Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, and discussed the importance of responsible journalism in difficult circumstances with 30 Congolese journalists who are involved in sensitive domestic reporting,” Howard University’s publication said.
At CNN, Professor Thomas played a vital role in the network’s coverage of major news stories and she was honored by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for her contribution to the network’s September 11 coverage and received the Peabody Award for her contribution to CNN’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina.
“As part of her weeklong activities, Professor Thomas will conduct a broadcast journalism workshop, grant a series of interviews highlighting the role of the free press in a democracy, and interact with journalism students at the School of Media and Communication at Pan Atlantic University. Following the journalism class, she will be featured in a Facebook Live session focused on the “Menace of Fake News.”,” the United States Consulate General in Lagos said in a statement sent to TODAY NEWS AFRICA.
“On World Press Freedom Day, May 3rd, her week-long engagements will conclude with a lecture at Pan Atlantic University. The audience will include journalism faculty and students, senior journalists and editors, as well as representatives of media development organizations,” the Consulate said.
Speaking on the visit of Professor Thomas to commemorate the 26 anniversary of World Press Freedom Day, U.S. Consulate Public Affairs Officer Russell Brooks said, “We are extremely pleased that Professor Thomas will join us to mark this important occasion and share her insights with Nigerian colleagues. The United States considers a free press to be a foundation of democratic governance. We believe a free press must be fostered to keep citizens properly informed and actively engaged in the issues that affect them in order to hold government and other institutions accountable to the public.”