Journalists have been charged to build trust in the media by making sure citizens’ voices are heard and be part of the solution to the Nigerian problem by asking persons in authority critical questions. Delivering an opening remark at the a Town Hall meeting organized by the Nigerian Guild of Editors on Thursday U.S. Ambassador
Journalists have been charged to build trust in the media by making sure citizens’ voices are heard and be part of the solution to the Nigerian problem by asking persons in authority critical questions.
Delivering an opening remark at the a Town Hall meeting organized by the Nigerian Guild of Editors on Thursday U.S. Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard discussed the challenges faced by Nigeria and other democracies across the world and highlighted democracy’s greatest strengths: the ability to improve upon and reinvent itself. When the citizenry’s belief in democracy, good governance and elections are restored, invariably they will want to be a part of that system and will defend it.
She said further that “our third overall challenge is an unfortunate, pervasive lack of trust in the media. The media plays a daily, vital role in reflecting, steering and mobilizing public opinion. When you all execute your journalistic roles thoughtfully, impartially and with accuracy, the reverberation of your words lingers.
“When you uncover stories that others have tried to hide or deny, inevitably prosecutions follow, and accountability is attained through the voice of the people at the ballot box. That is not to say that other elements of civil society are not critical, but rather to underscore that a team approach is needed to help improve public trust in the media.
The Town Hall meeting, the first in six, is a being organized by the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) with support from the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria to strengthen democracy and good governance. The theme is: Assessing Media Performance in Consolidating Nigeria’s Democracy: Citizens’ Verdict and Outlining An Agenda for the Future”
Building on the theme of trust in the media, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN who was the lead speaker at the Town Hall meeting said Editors cannot afford to be neutral in discussing the development of Nigeria. He urged journalists to be critical in their questions and stories insisting that the Agenda for the media is not to promote those who brought Nigeria to its knees.
He urged the media to set aside the issues of religion and ethnicity which are used to divide the people but to focus on the accomplishments of the candidates, their background and pedigree; “if they are corrupt people, please don’t campaign for them”
Mr. Falana said as we count down to the 2023 elections, the media should set the Agenda by asking politicians on major issues in the land like what is their position on the EndSARS issue, on bad roads across the country, on the fate of the Naira and other topical issues.
Venting his frustration on the state of the economy, Mr. Falana said “the IMF and World Bank have taken over the mismanagement of the Nigerian economy. They now dictate what should happen”. On the issue of removal of fuel subsidy, he said the media should let the government know that their mathematics is incorrect and also demand the register of the 40 million people that government intend to give N5,000.00 to when fuel subsidy is removed.
Another Lawyer at the meeting, Mr. Olumide Adeyinka-Fusika, said that Nigeria does not place much value of lives anymore. He recalled that almost 350 persons were killed and buried in mass graves in Zaria, yet the perpetrators are yet to be brought to justice despite being indicted by a judicial panel. He said though the media profession is suffering like other professions in the country, but urged journalists not to sell their conscience.
He noted further that it was not in dispute if the media was setting Agenda or not; the issue is whether your Agenda is right or wrong?
The Moderator of the programme, veteran journalist, Mr. Ray Ekpu advised Editors to be courageous and to read widely to become journalists of note in Africa.
Another Panelist, Professor Tola Sunday of Unilag, queried the role of the citizens in the development of democracy in the country. He said sometimes the citizens are docile citing the example of the student who died in a hotel in Ile-Ife recently. He canvassed for introduction of civic education right from primary school to make the citizens to be aware of their rights.
Welcoming participants to the meeting, the Nigerian Guild of Editors President Mallam Mustapha Isa, set the tone for discussion as he asked: What role should the media play in setting the agenda that would lead to a sustainable democratic culture in Nigeria?
According to him, Section 22 of the 1999 constitution says ” the press, radio, television, and other agencies of the media should at all times be free to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people”. This section gives the media the enormous responsibility to hold the government accountable to the people.
“How well has the media in Nigeria played this role? This Town Meeting is expected to assess our performance and suggest ways for improvement. All aspects of good governance are facilitated by a strong and independent media” he said..
According to the General Secretary of the Nigeria Guild of Editors and Director of the Programme, Mr. Iyobosa Uwugiaren said the programme is designed to promote and sustain free press environment for democratic consolidation and good governance in Nigeria being funded by the government of the United States of America (USA).
It is to facilitate activities aimed at strengthening the capacity of members of the Nigerian Guild of Editors to understand, appreciate and deliver on their constitutionally assigned responsibility to hold government to account on behalf of the people, to promote synergy and improve the cooperative spirit between the NGE and other professional associations within the media.
He named the associations to include, but not limited to, the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), the Online Media Practitioners Association of Nigeria (OMPAN), the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Non-Governmental Organisations, particularly those focused on supporting media freedom and improving the environment for freedom of expression.
Mr. Uwugiaren further said the programme looks to galvanise the key stakeholders to act responsibly and deny the authorities the moral authority to take punitive actions against the media for performing their constitutionally assigned role to hold the government to account, and to the general citizens, the right to hold and voice their opinions on the conduct of public officers.