How to ensure safety of journalists
The General Manager of Radio One, Lagos, Funke Treasure Durodola has advised media owners to create enabling environment for journalists to practise through newsroom mentoring. Dorudola, who was lead speaker at the International Press Centre’s Media Roundtable on ‘Advancing a Culture of Safety for Journalists in Nigeria,’ said journalism is a discipline of verification, which separates journalism from entertainment, propaganda, fiction or art.
The event was organised by the Nigerian Journalists’ Safety Initiative and supported by Open society foundation.
Durodola posed such rhetorical questions as: who needs a journalist anyway and why are journalists unsafe? According to her, a United Nations report shows “that journalists are murdered for their reporting; very few of the murders are investigated and in almost 90 per cent of the cases, no one is prosecuted.”
She pointed out that the UN Information Officer in Nigeria, Mr. Seyi Soremekun had note, “Attacks on journalists is described as impunity and amounts to a violation of the human rights of the individuals, which undermines freedom of information and expression across societies,” as well as UN Human Rights Chief, Navi Pillay’s comment, “Every act of violence committed against a journalist that goes uninvestigated and unpunished is an open invitation for further violence. Ensuring accountability for attacks against journalists is a key element in preventing future attacks”
Durodola The GM mentioned some yearly UN reports which points that in 2014 in the past 22 years; 1,055 journalists have been killed worldwide. While in 2015, the number was almost double as about 1,500 journalists died, 23 of them from Africa. “What about the unresolved case of the killing of Dele Giwa of Newswatch in 1986 and the Bagauda Kaltho case of 1996?” she said.
Durodola said impunity must give way to the rule of law, as cases of harassment and kidnap of journalists was becoming rampant in Nigeria. To further illustrate how media outfits can protect journalists, using Radio One as case study, she said, Radio One had an organisational culture of self-censorship as well as providing institutional backing (institutional support, legal support and security support) on assignment/fieldwork to the journalist.
She, however, advised journalist to tell the truth about the stories being covered, being transparent about method and motives of the story and, most importantly, being alive to tell the story. She further emphasised the need for journalists to be open with the supervisor or editor on what transpired on the field in order to identify red flags and put adequate measures in place for their protection.
On practical ways to ensure safety of journalists, Durodola asked, “how many journalists have gone through the safety drill and how many of us have learnt from the past?”
She said Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) should investigate safety issues, adding, “We must continually agitate and hold the government accountable by keeping the issue in the news. The newsroom needs to be restructured to change the negative perception about journalists.”
She noted that disciplinary measures be put in place to deal with moles in the newsroom, and where a journalist is being molested by law enforcement agents, the guild of editors should come in. “It is high time NUJ stopped giving out awards to governors and politicians and celebrate journalists instead. We must continue to agitate for openness and transparency in governance.”
Also present were representatives of Open Society Foundation (OSF) office, UK, Mr. Edward Pittman and Mr. J.J Robinson. Pittman said OSF was aware of some of the security and editorial challenges of journalism practice in Nigeria
Assistant Editor of Vanguard, Mr. Clifford Ndujihe, who represented the Editor, Vanguard, Mr. Eze Anaba, said there were a lot of factors militating against free and balance journalism practice in Nigeria, saying, “How do you expect a journalist, who is being owed seven months’ salary to uphold ethics of the profession. Of course, he has to devise ways to make ends meet.”
He advised media owners to regularly train and retrain journalists and provide better working environment for journalists to practice.
Ndujihe said journalists should learn to manage their finances better, set targets and work towards achieving them. He, however, noted, “Though the laws of the land are not very supportive of the journalist, government must be held accountable to the people.”
On his part, Akin argued that no story was worth the life of a journalist, saying, “It is more painful that some of these death issues are not investigated. An important aspect of safety of journalist is the confidentiality of the journalist.”
The Guardian’s Kabir Alabi Garba said it was rather sad that emphasis is often laid on the physical welfare and safety of journalists instead of remunerations. “What kind of safety are we talking about if the journalist is being owed months of salary?”
Also, chairman, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Mrs. Sekina Lawal lamented the non-payment of journalists’ salaries, saying, “NUJ should take the issue more seriously, and in terms of safety, the media bodies should come together to ensure the enforcement of safety laws for the journalists.”