Muslim scholars task media on fair reports
* Harp on need for national carrier
The need for the Nigerian media to be objective, fair and factual in reporting Islamic related events, particularly the yearly hajj exercise has been stressed.
Besides, the scholars and hajj operators urged the Federal Government to float a national carrier to guarantee a hitch free religious exercise.
As the pilgrims prepare for airlift from July 30, the stakeholders, who gathered in Lagos to discuss Hajj Operations and Media Responsibility emphasised the need for adequate preparations for the exercise and fair reportage of the yearly pilgrimage.
The stakeholders who spoke at the symposium organized by the Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria (MMPN), Lagos Chapter, include the Vice President, Association for Hajj and Umrah Operators of Nigeria (AHUON), Lagos Zone, Alhaji Quasim Alabi; Senior Research Fellow, Mass Communication Department, University of Ilorin and Founding President, MMPN, Alhaji Liad Tella; Lagos State Commissioner for Home Affairs, AbdulHakeem AbdulLateef; Chairman, National Hajj Commission (NAHCON), Muhammad Mukhtar; and National President, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), AbdulWaheed Odushile among others.
Alabi said Nigeria needs to float national carrier in order to ease hajj operations.
According to him, Nigeria’s hajj operation is improving very fast and the establishment of a national carrier will further bolster the ease of hajj airlift.
Alabi urged the media to give adequate reportage of hajj operations, noting that the exercise is currently “underreported compared to the games such as Olympic games, whereas more people worldwide are participating in hajj than we see in Olympics.”
Managing Director, Med-view Airlines, Alhaji Munir Bankole, also stated that hajj operation has drastically improved as adequate preparations are on ground to lift the pilgrims within the stipulated time.
Bankole, who was represented by the company’s Chief Operating Officer, Alhaji Lukmon Animashaun, said that the media should at any point in time say the truth with facts, propagate Islam and contribute meaningfully towards the growth of the nation.
He lauded National Hajj Commission (NAHCON) for the feats achieved so far, urging the media to report hajj operation adequately.
Commissioner for Home Affairs, Lagos State, AbdulLateef AbdulHakeem, stressed the need for media practitioners to uphold the principles of balance and fair reportage of issues and event in order to engender peace and stability in the country.
He said: “It is both ethical and national beauty for media representatives to make sure that they report facts especially on hajj activities as honest reportage not only make hajj performance easier for the pilgrims but also less stressful for the hajj managers. Balance and objective reporting of issue by the fourth estate of the realm should be the hallmark of an effective and efficient reportage.”
The Guest Lecturer, Senior Research Fellow, Mass Communication Department, University of Illorin And Founding President, Muslim Media practitioners of Nigeria, Alhaji Liad Tella Tella said, “the media outreach on hajj is grossly inadequate”, adding that the media should devote more time and editorial space in the print media on hajj education.
“Pilgrims need to be assisted to go through hajj rites and for hajj rites to have positive impact on them so that they will all return from hajj to begin a new life that will benefit the community and the nation at large.
“There are lots of changes and review of the rules governing the performance of hajj rites, changes to the mode of transportation and accommodation of pilgrims to make pilgrimage less stressful and more engaging for spiritual benefits,” he said.
He urged the press to be fair and balanced and should graduate out of bias reportage and embrace pristine journalism ethics in the coverage of Hajj affairs. “ Muslim journalists should grow out of fright and come out with educative and informative write-ups to put Hajj and Hajj management in the right perspective”.
“Media should adhere strictly to balances, fair and unbiased reportage on issues of religion promoting individual right to freedom of worship and religion without hindrance. Media reportage of Islamic events is always from the negative perspective and editorial opinion on major Islamic events until very recently, in some media, stigmatize Islam with negativity.”
He added that negative media reportage from negative perception might be due to ignorance or lack of desire to understand Islam and its content or due to deliberate bias due to inherited bigotry. The media as the greatest agency of mass communication cannot and should not be ignored even though is expected to know. The Muslims should get the media to come home with fact that hajj is not only cultural in Nigeria; it is cultural in the entire west, Central, East and North Africa. Hajj processes have to be monitored by the media and reported by journalists with the purpose of calling attention of the commission to areas of challenges.
Tella said media should focused are review on previous Hajj Operation on areas of challenges and proffer solution to them, fixing air fare and compliance with regulations and deadline of payment, pre-qualification and Accreditation of airlines for hajj airlift operation, accreditation of Hajj tour Operators HTO and other service providers, coordination with the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank, process of procuring visa from Saudi Arabia, rehabilitation of eleven Hajj Camps and preparation of flight schedule and management of departure centers, balance reportage will be achieved.
The media and journalists especially Muslim journalists should wake up to the challenge of promoting better understanding of hajj. Absence of Muslims in the media and inadequate understanding of the role of the media in the society has greatly affected public perception of Hajj operations. He said.