Open-minded, unbiased reportage key to building peace, says Akpan
Covering disasters, pandemic, crime and mayhem can be scary for journalists, especially as they strive to return home safe to their loved ones. Recently, The Guardian caught up with Martins Akpan, a media literacy educator, certified by UNESCO on Media Information Literacy.
Akpan advised that journalists covering crises should be open-minded, unbiased in relating with the active participants or players in the crises and not allow personal emotions to interfere with the reportage.
As prejudice is a predominant part of most humans, drawing the line between striking a balance and setting an agenda is often difficult for journalists. The teacher said, “Journalist are humans and are not immune to such also, so in professional conduct prejudices should be controlled and separated from personal and professional conduct. We should therefore act according to principle of a neutral ombudsman to our personal self first before taking decisions. Open mindedness cures prejudices and even after thoughts after professional decisions are taken.”
Reacting to the possibility of having protocols that would enhance and guarantee the safety of journalists universally, he said it could vary due to countries terrain, politics and interest, adding, “taking a country like North Korea and South Korea for instance, these are two countries with different ideologies therefore their principles and policies on safety of journalist need to be studied, however on global standard safety principles can be harmonised by charter of global bodies under the auspices of the United Nations.”
Akpan reiterated that journalists were in position to influence peace processes by dwelling on facts to have resolute solutions to tensions and what may be the principal causes of the tensions, and giving voices to both sides on what could be the meeting points in such crisis situations.
According to him, “the qualities of a good conflict reporter, is firstly his listening skill should be very high. Should be unbiased and not allow past prejudices to overtake his reasoning, have a nose to look for vital issues that will bind than separate. He should also be research oriented in issues causing such crises. A good sense of history is vital.”
He further advised media owners to provide insurance covers for journalists covering crises, noting that some insurance houses may be bias in specific crises situations.
Akpan opined that beyond the normal media training, journalists should also have skill of engaging participants in peaceful atmosphere of neutrality. He said, “Though not fully professional on the spot, empathy should be displayed, they have an on spot observation when asking questions, there is need to have a skill of brisk decision of which particular news could provoke more crisis or not, yes all news is news, but news can further harm global peace and should be handled with hindsight.”
Having been on media literacy for almost two decades, the expert said the factors that could help usher in lasting peace in crises regions were open mindedness, impartial deliberation, peace consistency efforts and humanitarian considerations beyond certain patriotic of player’s interest.
Speaking on life after the training with UNESCO on Media and Information Literacy, he said, “the experience I would say has been awesome, especially with the training from UNESCO and Athabasca University Canada,on changes we now have the involvement of the global body UNESCO, a global working curriculum, workshop and training of teachers, school administrators across the country even the establishment of MIL clubs we also have support from UNESCO too, I was also part of the UNESCO Global Media Week in Lithuania, Eastern Europe in 2018 where I was one of the key speakers, I say I have lots of positive changes.”
Also, he said the MIL coalition, supported by UNESCO was one the greatest things to happen to Africa in the new information age, “we have a coalition of media egg heads, practicing media professionals of different fields. Today we have people coming together from different spheres on the same goal MIL, it is also wonderful now to have participants in the Government sector been part of the coalition, I see greater milestones coming,” he said.
Akpan said the target is to establish 500 functional MIL clubs in Nigeria, adding, “I am happy to say we have gone to several schools across the country from south to north east to west, we are looking at close 60 schools now, because we need to have a detailed workshop in each school also inaugurate the MIL clubs.”