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Media independence, adequate funding, good remuneration to key good journalism

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President Muhammadu Buhari (right) other senior government officials and Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed (left) at the opening of International Press Institute (IPI) congress held last week… in Abuja

Media independence, adequate funding, and good remuneration for journalists are essential to achieving critical reports that promote good journalism. This was the submission of participants at the just ended 68th Congress and General Assembly of International Press Institute (IPI) in Abuja. The congress, which had ‘Why Good Journalism Matters: Quality Media for Strong Societies’ as theme., attracted over 300 top journalists, media executives, publishers and communication experts.

While declaring the event open, President Muhammadu Buhari observed that good journalism promotes good governance. He noted that the changing media landscape, the explosion of social media and the rapidly evolving new technology have had a profound impact on media business and media practice. He argued that in a world where the borderline between hate speech and free speech has become blurred, good journalism matters.

According to Buhari, “In an environment where fake news dwarfs investigative reporting, good journalism matters; for survival in an increasingly competitive field, good journalism matters”.

He noted that it is the nation’s pride that IPI’s vision of a professional journalism training institution in Nigeria has taken firm root since the establishment of the Nigeria Institute of Journalism, Ogba, Ikeja, Lagos, by IPI in 1963. Buhari said hosting the congress in Nigeria was a reflection of the institute’s assessment of Nigeria as a safe country.

IPI Executive Director, Barbara Triinfi, in her address lamented that independent journalism was under attack as press freedom is being eroded around the world.

She said: “As we gather here today from different countries to open IPI’s 68th World Congress, there is a sense that independent journalism is under attack and press freedom has eroded all over the world. From Mexico to the Philippines, from Zimbabwe to Turkey, from Russia to Egypt, journalists are being imprisoned. They are denied access to justice. They are threatened and insulted on social media. They are directly targeted and labeled as traitors and enemies of the state and they are killed, shot in front of their houses, on their way to work, by killers who know that murdering journalists is the easiest way to silence them and ensure that the stories of corruption they were investigating, the wrongdoings they had uncovered will never be revealed.”

Triinfi also observed that about 43 journalists have been killed so far in 2018 in places like Afghanistan, Mexico, India, Pakistan and Philippines among others, adding, “Also here in Nigeria, a country with a very lively news industry which enjoys a good degree of press freedom, safety has been a serious problem for journalists, not only those covering the areas where insurgents are active but also journalists covering corruption have been targeted.”

At one of the sessions, which dwelt on ‘Why Good Journalism Matters,’ the need for media independence was a dominant issue and it was agreed that the media, including those publicly owned, should be able to operate without any interference from their owners if there must be good journalism.

All the panelists, from Vice President, Editor at large, The Associated Press, John Daniszewski to Managing Editor, Rappler, Glenda Gloria; Director Editorial Policy, BBC, David Jordan; Editor-in-Chief, Mail and Guardian, Khadija Patel and Acting Director General, Al-Jazeera Media Network were agreed that good journalism matters as it would help to make positive change in any community and society. Each of them provided insight into how good journalism has been funded on their platforms and how their platforms have been funded to do good journalism.

Patel stated that there has been a greater level of private-public partnership for good journalism, noting that there is no single model for funding good journalism. She, however, maintained that advertising revenue only should not be main source to drive good journalism by any media platform. According to her, good journalism is under threat just as the value attached to good journalism is no longer receiving the acceptance it used to get.

This, she said, was aside that good journalism is being undermined by people, who bear the brunt of good journalism. Patel maintained good journalism requires good editors and good investment on journalists, adding that journalists must be empowered to do stories that are impactful consistently.

For Daniszewski, the media should keep doing good jobs despite the not too friendly environment because most people will eventually gravitate towards true information, as it is natural to want to know the truth.

On her part, Gloria said independence of the media and practitioners should be collectively fought for every day. She further said since the media does not operate in a vacuum, the public they serve should also be interested in their independence, adding that good journalism speaks truth to power.

“We cannot legislate independence, as independence has to be fought,” she said. “Technology now allows us to do more stories.  Propaganda and fake news have hijacked the news from us. There must be a unique selling proposition that defines you. That is the way to drive traffic.”

Also speaking at the session, Jouag said as the system and environment of operation continues to change due to technology the media must be creative in its approach and in engaging its audience.

According to her, “We cannot have real development without people knowing and taking informed decision and good journalism help to do that. We need real independent media.”

Jordan argued that good journalism is Independent from political interest, as good journalism is objective, fair and accountable. He advised journalists to adhere to ethics.

The congress also provided a platform for IPI to call for the release of journalists, who are in jail in different countries around the world. Deputy Director of the Institute, Scott Griffin observed that the number of journalists, who are behind bars are increasing instead of decreasing, adding that over 250 journalists are presently behind bars in different countries around the globe. He observed that a journalist in Cairo, Egypt, is facing death penalty for doing his job.

He said, “So many journalist are in jail in Egypt, Turkey, Iran and China among others. In Iran and China, we don’t have access to determine the number of journalists in jail.”

Griffin insisted that journalists must be free to do their jobs, as there cannot be good journalism without journalists to do the job. He stressed the need for the media to work together as a community to secure the release of the affected journalists, noting, “It is important because if we are united as a community, it will bring more strength and put more pressure on the state.”


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