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IPI Congress in Abuja… global focus on good journalism

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Iredia

Global media will, from today, focus on Nigeria as the International Press Institute (IPI) world congress takes off at the prestigious Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

With “Why Good Journalism Matters” as theme, the conference is expected to attract over 300 top journalists, media executives, publishers and communication experts from across the world.

The theme has its root in the significant correlation between the media and democracy whose oxygen is believed to be free flow of information.

Specifically, the gathering will critically examine the factors that have hindered excellent practice that is in sync with developmental journalism and good ethical standards.

For Nigerian journalists, the practice has been largely defined by the constitutional obligation to monitor governance and hold government accountable to people.

However, the zeal to promote developmental journalism, investigative reporting and issue-based engagement have been dampened by socio-political and economic factors that have become threats to good practice for the overall benefit of the society.

Some of these issues were engaged yesterday during a television programme featuring a panel of journalism scholars and experts including Prof. Umar Pate; Dr. Tonnie Iredia; Mr. Raheem Adedoyin; and Mr. Martins Oloja. The programme was designed to rev up awareness for the IPI Congress.

To Iredia, who is the Chairman, Media and Publicity Sub-committee of the IPI Congress, “If care is not taken, control or interference could destroy journalism.

In Nigeria and some African countries today, there is so much of non-journalists in the working of the media, and it becomes a problem for the professional journalists working there.

Ownership control is a big challenge; funding is another limitation; while training is also lacking; and poor regulation. All of these are really disturbing the growth of journalism.

He said the social media may have its negativity especially on fake news, it also gives some opportunities of limited control, “because where you say a conventional media should not report a certain issue, the social media will bring it up.”

Iredia gave an insight to the direction of debate at the opening of the congress today: “We should begin to hear what was done in Nigeria, not what was not done.

You can call attention to what was not done, for it to be done, but you also need to bring about what was done.

That is balance and objectivity and that is why the IPI Congress has introduced a new dimension which I believe is going to be of great advantage to Nigeria.

There is going to be a conversation with the government of Nigeria after the opening ceremony.

After the conversation, we will have key Nigerian ministers telling the international media what activities have taken place in the sectors that they represent.

They will make the international journalists know what is happening in Nigeria.

They need to know, so that they can be dissuaded from thinking that it is either nothing happens here or whatever happens here is negative, and that is why our leaders should begin to have confidence in the local media,” he said.

Member, Editorial Board of The Guardian, Matins Oloja, said the new media and citizen journalism are those who usually bring fake news into the context.

“In this same context, people should know that journalists are not criminals.

Journalism is not a crime and people believe that journalists are troublemakers without understanding that it is also a constitutional role.

The constitution that assigns responsibility to the three arms of government also assigns reasonability to journalists.

It was stipulated in Section 22 of the constitution that we are to monitor governance and to hold people in government accountable.

We are not interlopers. We are not intruders. We are not criminals. We are members of the fourth estate of the realm,” he said.

Oloja noted that the new media (social media) is a threat to the conventional media as well as an opportunity.

“The threat in the content development is that the social media breaks news faster than newsprints.

That is where investigative journalism comes in. I discover that some journalists are now becoming lazy as you see some of them sharing stories.

The threat of social media has given opportunity for providing content on issue-based journalism.

Even teachers of journalism should train the young ones on investigative journalism.

They should improve the curriculum of studies because what used to be relevant in the journalism school is no longer relevant because of innovative technologies.

For example, foreign institutions are now taking part of computer science into journalism to teach digital journalism; therefore this is the way to go.

People who manage public broadcasting should know that we need issue-based content.”

According to Oloja, “Ethical issues should be of great concern to everybody, some journalists are not paid and these gives opportunity for some people to pay them.

These are ethical issue that should be dealt with, if you want good journalism,” he said.

He faulted the new idea of media organisation giving awards to public officers and agencies.

“In a situation where media organisations now organize awards to news sources, these are ethical issues.

How do you give an award to an institution that you cover?

If you give an award to head of an organisation or institution, a minister or governor on Monday and there is an outbreak of bad news from that office, what do you do with it?” he queried.

Dean, Faculty of Communications, Bayero University, Prof. Umar Pate said: “The president will tell you he was elected by the people, journalists may not be elected but you have the constitutional responsibility to the society and good journalism matters because good journalism is about contextual relevance; good journalism is about trust; good journalism is said to be built on credibility, where there is no credibility, there is no trust, there will be no journalism.

So, journalists should widen their scope of knowledge about issues so that they can report objectively.”

He said the universities are now coming up with new curriculum to develop students into becoming functional journalists.

“The curriculum, is presently with the National Universities Commission (NUC), and bodies such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the universities and relevant agencies are working hard to ensure that the new curriculum gives us a face lift.

It is going to be digitized and highly guided in encouraging our students to become good journalists that are digitally equipped and those that can fit into the contemporary reality of technology and serve the Nigeria of the 21st century.

Very soon, the NUC will announce that, then it will be good news to all.

I can assure you that things will be better and the industry will be getting brand new good and functional journalists, so that digital equipment will not have analog users.”

He said good journalism training must equip people with relevant knowledge on technological innovations and issues of ethics in media and equip them on competencies in handling issues like climate change, sustainable development, multi-cultural nature of Nigeria among others, then we can have journalists who believe in transparency, anti-corruption and democracy. Pate said one of the greatest challenges is integration, how do we make our students to begin to appreciate Nigeria as a nation.

Secretary, IPI Nigeria, Abdur Raheem Adedoyin, said bad journalism is inevitable because of the advent of social media, which has given citizens opportunity to become journalists and spread (mis)information.

He said the trust and integrity is what is sustaining the conventional media because people believe what they have published.

Adedoyin also stressed the need to develop investigative journalism, urging the writers to always scrutinize and double check their information before going to press.

He noted that the forthcoming congress would address many issues around good journalism.

He said ethical journalism starts from the editors themselves, alleging that a lot of them have become ‘consultants’. “Editors should lead.

He should provide input into what kind of reportage that you want and if they don’t do it, you sanction them.

If we are talking about ethical challenges, I think we need to start from the top and mentor some of them.”


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