In a remarkable bid to further entrench press freedom and discuss the need for factual reporting, top media experts converged at the at the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral of the Catholic Church in Abeokuta, Ogun State, to commemorate this year’s World Communication Day and held in-depth discussions on how journalists can improve societal narratives
In a remarkable bid to further entrench press freedom and discuss the need for factual reporting, top media experts converged at the at the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral of the Catholic Church in Abeokuta, Ogun State, to commemorate this year’s World Communication Day and held in-depth discussions on how journalists can improve societal narratives by disseminating accurate information.
Themed” Speaking with the Heart, the Truth in Love”, the event was chaired by the executive director 0f Rock City FM, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Dr Niran Malaolu, with the executive director of Media Career Development Network Mr. Lekan Otufodurin and the former commissioner of information and orientation, Osun State, Mrs Funke Egbemode, as panelists, while Mr Lanre Arogunde, the executive director of the International Press Centre, was the guest speaker.
In his opening remarks, Dr Malaolu, emphasized the significance of journalists and the media in society and the need for them to advance truthfulness in their line of work.
Noting the lack of ethical standards and the difficulties journalists face in providing accurate information to society, Dr. Malalolu urged media professionals to show courage and tenacity in carrying out their duties while reporting without bias
In his keynote address, Mr Lanre Arogundade emphasized that professional journalism should be driven by the pursuit of truth and the critical role that ethical journalistic practice plays in upholding the integrity of any society
Mr Arogundade emphasised the need for media professionals to prioritise the truth within the context of the citizen’s right to free speech and further demand press freedom, which is the culmination of the role of journalists as the trusted spokespersons for the public.
To speak the truth, the IPC director urged the media to operate within the ethical codes of journalism, which are layered with demands to report factual and verified information to the members of the public
“It has been equally argued that because journalism is a public trust, the pursuit of the truth should be within the context of the right of the people, or the citizens, to know the truth; the right to know being the major underpinning of the right to freedom of expression in which press or media freedom is embedded.
“But, because ascertaining the truth and disseminating it truthfully have more than one side, journalism codes of ethics and other professional standards lay emphasis on the exercise of the discipline of verification and factual accuracy.
“IFJ’s global charter of ethics adds a third dimension by going further in Article 2 to state that in the course of unravelling the truth, “the journalist shall at all times defend the principles of freedom in the honest collection and publication of news, and of the right of fair comment and criticism. He/she will make sure to clearly distinguish factual information from commentary and criticism”.
In his thought-provoking speech, Mr Arogundade further pointed to the several factors that militate against truth-telling in the media space and the journalism profession. He indicated that government interference with media is ensnaring the journalists and preventing them from telling the truth to the public.
He went on to say that the Nigerian media industry is intimidated by government entities like the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), which consistently fines broadcasting stations, and that their actions limit press freedom and the dissemination of information there. He also indicated that a large number of journalists are facing physical assaults when performing their duties
He also highlighted the poor welfare of journalists in Nigeria as a restriction to telling the truth in their reports, especially as most of the surviving media houses in the country are operating at the mercy of the political actors in the country.
Despite these challenges, Mr Arogundade commended some media practitioners who are operating in line with ethics and good professionalism
“The poor welfare state of most journalists in Nigeria, which largely arises from lack of attention to good corporate practices by some media proprietors, also limits the ability of the journalists in their employment to dig deep and tell the truth since such journalists can easily be compromised through attention to their ‘stomach infrastructure’ by the subjects of their coverage.
“I should quickly mention here that journalists who cover government activities and earn allowances from the executives will hardly be expected to report the truth about all that transpires in the state houses, or MDAs – the ministries, departments, and agencies of government. In any case, they are usually monitored by the Commissioners of Information, Special Advisers on Media, Chief Press Secretaries, etc., who though maybe journalists and former media executives occupy those positions to ensure good PR for their principals.
“In spite of the critical factors I have identified so far, the media and journalists in Nigeria cannot, in all honesty, be accused of not striving to publish the truth about the reality of our existence, be it in the governance and the political arena, or in the realm of the security situation, the social and economic lives of the citizens”, he said.
He, however, advocated for public support for journalists and professionals to disseminate information accurately, demanding a conducive environment for them to express themselves truthfully without fear of intimidation and secrecy in government.
He also insisted on the need to pay attention to journalists’ welfare, which has been neglected by the media owners in the country. He continued to call for the protection of media professionals by law enforcement agents.
He, however, appealed to the members of the public and state actors to eschew the dissemination of false information to the public space, indicating that with that there will be reduction in the spreading of falsehood in the society
“To make the environment conducive for journalists to tell the truth, the government must commit to proactively disclosing information and making governance open by, for instance, removing the opacity that largely surrounds budgeting including the figures and expenditure. Along this line, the office of the Attorney General of the Federation should instead of defending MDAs that fail to comply with FOI Act requests put in place mechanisms for sanctioning them.
“The long-neglected issue of journalists’ welfare must be visited by the government and media owners, who, along with media professional bodies, media support groups, the civil society, law enforcement and security agencies, and other relevant stakeholders, need to pay attention to the development of mechanisms for the guarantee of the safety of journalists”, he concluded.
Mrs Funke Egbemode, one of the panelists at the event, gave a speech during which she urged the government to set up an environment that would allow the media to prosper economically. She clarified that the media cannot function actively without proper welfare, noting that the media can only be sustained by factual reporting and ethical practice.
Additionally, Mrs Egbemode urged the general public to consistently work with the media in disseminating accurate information, pointing out that the media can only flourish when the general public refrains from spreading false information.
“I have never agreed with the statement that fake news exists because if something is fake, it can never be news, and if something is news, it can never be fake because false information is referred to as a rumour. I urge members of the public to stay away from spreading rumours instead of the truth.
“There is nothing that says we should not get the same treatment as other business corporations, the government should give us the appropriate support, whether it is a loan or grant, The media is not treated as a business yet, and I have said this on several platforms, it is very dangerous for you to ask your children to study mass communication because there is no place for them to work”, she said.
In the same light, Mr Lekan Otunfodunrin exhorted media professionals and journalists to research tactics for fostering responsible communication and addressing the problems brought on by misinformation. He highlighted the importance of media literacy and critical thinking to navigate the vast array of information available to them.
“It is important that when we are trying to tell the truth, to ensure that the person we are reporting does not have complaints against us, we have to report the fact. Let us be sure of our data and our facts before reporting them, and let us get the other side of the story. There are many sides to the stories, and people who provide information can have their agenda, s we have to present our facts before publishing”.