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‘Hold players, government accountable with investigative agric reporting’

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To truly transform the agricultural sector and realise the potentialities of wealth creation, employment opportunities and food security for the country, journalists have been advised to report the sector comprehensively, hold the government accountable and expose wrong doings by other players in the sector.

Trainers said these during a three-day intensive training on investigative journalism for agriculture reporters and editors.
About 20 journalists and public relations specialists participated programme in Abuja last week, organised by the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism.

Dapo Olorunyomi, publisher of Premium Times, while speaking on ‘Agriculture Journalism and the Accountability Challenge,’ there are several constitutional provisions in African countries and international charters that place the responsibility of holding the government accountable for public good.

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He said, “Journalism is aspect of communication defined by factual and truthful information; verification of its claims and independence of its agency and primarily, public good. These are what distinguish journalism from fiction writing.” Chapter 22 of the Nigerian Constitution, chapter 162 of Ghana’s Constitution, Section 11 of Sierra Leone’s Constitution, Section 15C of Liberia’s Constitution, and Section 207 (3) of The Gambian Constitution are some of the constitutional empowerment for journalists in democratic settings to hold leaders accountable, he argued.

International laws on this include Article 19 of UNHRD; Article 9 of ACPHR; Section 65/66 ECOWAS Treaty, he said, saying, “In every democracy, accountability is the purpose of journalism.” He emphasised that agriculture is by far the most important sector in the country and it would mean a lot if international best practices are brought to bear in it, which investigative journalism could enhance.

“The idea of the training is to the bring the best people who are into agricultural journalism, who will mentor the newbies in the system and collectively they will set a community of practice and help provide effective audit for governance in the agricultural sector.

“More so, this is significant such that it will stimulate employment, bring about expansion in the economy and raise funds to finance development in the country, and ensuring that the weaknesses as experienced in the other sectors do not affect agriculture.

“It is what we look forward to and the main reason is to bring journalists to an awareness that their duty in any democratic sphere is to ensure accountability.”One of the facilitators at the training, Mr Ini Ekot, while speaking on ‘Investigating the Agricultural Sector,’ journalists in the sector should do all they can to hold the regulators, policy executives and private-sector players accountable for transparency, efficiency and development of the sector. Public resources, he said, should be spent on the sector as allocated in the budget, and journalists should play a critical role by juxtaposing implementation with allocations of resources.

Investigative agricultural reporting, he added, should have the motivation around issues of overwhelming public interest, and its methods should be in-depth and systematic scrutiny of events, issues and players in the sector.“It must speak to unearth a secret people are keeping. Its orientation should be original research and reporting by a reporter,” he said.

Another facilitator, Mr Taiwo Adebayo, said human and child rights abuses in the sector should be exposed and discouraged with effective investigative journalism. Any agricultural business that prevents children from school or employs child labour deserves being exposed, for these violate their rights to basic education.

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