At media dialogue, participants link robust economy to accountability journalism
Stakeholders in the media industry, at a recent dialogue organised by International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), in Abuja, said a robust economy is obtainable and realisable only in societies where accountability thrives with the help of sound investigative journalism.
With the theme: “Role of the media in promoting public accountability,” the stakeholders also said there is need for media owners to develop new business models to make the press viable and sustainable.
Executive Director, ICIR, Dayo Aiyetan, in his welcome remarks, spoke on the critical role of media in sustaining democratic culture and the need for journalists to promote transparency and accountability in public offices.
Similarly, Country Director, MacArthur Foundation, Kole Shettima, said the role of journalists in the growth of any society couldnot be overemphasised and stressed the need to support journalists at all time.
Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian, Martins Oloja, in his keynote address, expressed concern over the political economy of press freedom, insisting that it is too weak to support qualitative and accountability journalism.
He said poor capitalisation is a big threat to investigative journalism.
Speaking on the topic, ‘The Role of the Nigerian Media in Promoting Public Accountability,’ he noted that the Nigerian press is too poor to hold the powerful to account.
According to him, “some of our colleagues have not been paid for the past five months. Then, what kind of investigative journalism can they practise?”
Speaking further, he said the ugly development had led to unethical practices, where media houses give awards to public office holders, who brought down the country.
“Some of the awardees,” he stressed, “owe salaries. So, how do you want readers to look at journalists?”
According to him, “we are conscious of the role of investigative journalism in any nation. It holds the powerful to account. Investigative journalism causes public outrage. It is nurtured by data. It is seeking reform of the system. It is done to target systemic failure.
“We don’t have a strong private sector and we need to work collectively to ensure that we have a good government that will manage the economy. We need to investigate what they do with the money they borrow. So, that we can have a robust economy.”
Citing the celebrated investigative journalism conducted in the Philippines, he said, “The world-class investigative story the World Bank Institute has been showcasing and advertising to the world in the Philippines took the investigators eight months.”
Tagged, ‘Journalistic Legwork that Tumbled a President,’ he said, “the report documented by Lars Moller and Jack Jackson for the World Bank Institute is about how a handful of Filipino journalists pulled the red carpet from under their powerful President Joseph Estrada.”
He added that the World Bank institute recommended this as a brilliant case study for journalists around the world.
He said: “It is, therefore, pertinent for young journalists to understand the fact that newspapers can only be influential by the quality of regular investigative reports they publish. It cost the Filipino investigative journalists $8 million.”
With specific reference to citizen journalism, he noted that it had removed power from the editors. Everybody, he observed, is now an editor.
“Citizen journalism has democratised access to information, but how much of this is seen in breaking news?” he queried.
The panel discussants were former Head, Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Prof. Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika; Chairman, Editorial Board, Blueprint Newspapers, Zainab Suleiman Okino; Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Edetaen Ojo and Editor-in-Chief of the Premium Times, Mojeed Musikilu.
Prof Ogwezzy-Ndisika, who is also a member of Editorial Board, The Guardian Newspapers, said in this era of media convergence, media owners should re-think new business models.
According to her, “media operators need to sit down together to come up with workable business models and they must have a timeline they are going to grow it in order to free themselves from government’s patronage and multinational corporations.”
She said: “We have to focus and expose what government and corporations are trying to hide. Accountability must not only be on government but individuals and corporations.”
She added: “The Fourth Estate of the realm is the watchman and his duty is to keep his sharp eye open. Journalists must show resilience and uncommon prodigy. We must also look at crossborder movement of our finances. Quality of contracts. We also need to have independence of the media. Accountability is at the heart of our work and we have to pursue it vigorously.”
Mojeed, in his observation, said that a lot of journalists are doing well but the media houses are poor. He said: “That’s ironic. A lot of us impoverished our own newspapers. Reporters smuggle in, press releases that should be paid for. Though the economy is bad, but we are complicit. In some media houses, you only know the newspapers but you will not know the publisher. It is part of the accountability. He said Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) must come together to check the excesses of advertisers.”
Okino, however, disagreed with Mojeed on his statement that journalists are doing well.
According to her, “compared with journalists outside the shores of Nigeria, we are actually poor. At our level, if we are directors at any of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), we are big people. That I took up political appointment doesn’t make me a politician.”
Ojo, on his part, said, “Part of the challenge we face is that the media sector is rotten.”
According to him, “if we don’t clean it up, we are all going to be in that mess together. We don’t need to wait for the media to be rich to clean it up.”
Citing the telecoms sector, he said: “The question we must ask ourselves is how we can make our products attractive and indispensable for members of the public to invest in.”
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