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No news story worth blood of any journalist, says Pate

By Murtala Adewale, Kano
28 June 2022   |   2:36 am
Speaking on the significance of investigative journalism and the safety of journalists, the Vice-Chancellor, Federal University Kashere, Gombe State, Professor Umaru Pate canvassed safety

Journalists sprawled on the floor… keeping watch at the All Progressives Congress Presidential Primary in Abuja… recently. PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA

The rampant intimidation, harassment and assault of journalists in the cause of duty is worsening by the day.

Speaking on the significance of investigative journalism and the safety of journalists, the Vice-Chancellor, Federal University Kashere, Gombe State, Professor Umaru Pate canvassed safety and precautionary measures for working journalists to enable them to deliver effectively.

Professor Pate insisted, “no news story’s worth the blood of any journalist,” and only the reporter, who is alive will break the news.

The renowned Professor of Media and Society spoke recently while presenting a virtual paper on investigative journalism and the safety of journalists at the opening of a two-day workshop on Rural Health Accountability (RHAP-Project) organised by Solacebase Communications, Publishers of Solacebase online news platform held in Kano.

Pate, who raised concern about the economic and psychological safety of journalists in Nigeria, argued that until working journalists are mentally stable to carry out the rigours of their job, it would be difficult for the reporter to hold those in authority accountable to the people.

While recommending insurance and economic safety measures for journalists, the don, however, challenged media organisations in the country to improve the welfare of their staff to enhance corruption-free media.

According to Pate, “investigative journalism is a very risky venture that requires mental and psychological preparedness to avoid failure. It is for those with courage, fearless, committed, and those who know what it takes to be professional journalists. It is about ensuring transparency, accountability, and delivery of service.

“While performing this duty, however, journalists must ensure they are mentally stable. Many journalists are mentally stressed in the course of meeting daily deadlines, which in turn affects their mental health, social life, and marital affairs. And sometimes, to overcome these challenges, you have some journalists also engage in illicit activities like drug abuse and alcohol.

“In Nigeria, journalists can be cajoled with cash, and if they realise you are not ready for a bribe, they issue life threats, and they can even resort to eliminating your life, or they go for your family. That is why investigative journalists must be supported by their organisations.”

He said, “media organisations must make sure remunerations are not only paid fully but promptly to guarantee economic safety of journalists because economic safety will keep the reporter’s welfare protected and that will give him the ability to do his job without thinking where do I get my next meal, where to source for transport, how to settle school fee of children.”

Professor Pate said, “Unfortunately today, many of our media organisations have failed in this respect and the consequence is corruption in the system. Hence, media outfits should ensure journalists working under them are economically safe, psychologically protected, and physically safe.”

According to him, “a serious media organisation would always have a safety protocol or policy, which must cover every staff, including insurance cover in a situation where you send journalists to cover a dangerous event or crisis zone.”

He said studies conducted across the country have shown that a lot of media organisations do not have safety policies or protocols.

“This is quite unfortunate because the profession needs such policy especially now that the country is experiencing cases of insurgency, terrorism, kidnapping and other crises. And just like any other Nigerians, journalists are equally vulnerable. This is why media organisations must invest in such policies as the provision of protection, training of journalists on safety measures on the job, the provision of insurance, and other safety policies.

“Journalists must be alive to tell the story. Hence, proprietors must support journalists for them to be healthy, psychologically, mentally, and economically active to deliver on the job and more essentially to tread on the path of credible and thorough investigative reports. This is when journalists would be able to check and hold the power that be and government accountable to the people,” Professor Pate explained.

Editor-in-Chief, Solacebase Online News, Abdullateef Abubakar Jos, said the capacity-building sessions were organised to empower journalists with requisite skills and techniques of tracking funds, transparency in the use of resources, investigating and ensuring the effectiveness of primary health care in the country to reduce child and maternal mortality, in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) no 3, which emphasises good health and well being.

He said with the capacity-building platform, journalists are equipped with a modern investigative methodology to collaborate with civil society organisations and other stakeholders to check the government’s spending, human resources distribution, and availability of primary health care in rural communities.

The workshop drew participants from various media houses, and it was organised by Solacebase Communications, with support from Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism and funding from MacArthur Foundation.