On freedom day, the media is tasked to uphold responsible journalism
The media must know that it owes the Nigerian nation responsible journalism that promotes the good of a greater chunk of its citizens. This was the submission of a majority of the speakers and participants at an event to mark this year’s World Press Freedom Day by the United Nations Information Centre, Lagos.
They argued that though the media has the constitutional responsibility to expose the lapses of leaders, especially their failure to the people, in reporting that however, the media must ensure that the good of the nation, including its unity and wellbeing must be put into consideration. For them, this is critical to building a virile nation.
The officer in charge of the United Nations Information Centre, Mr. Oluseyi Soremekun said the celebration of the World Press Freedom day was unique for three reasons. “The 250th anniversary of the world’s first freedom of information law, covering both modern-day Sweden and Finland; the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Windhoek Declaration of press freedom principles and also this year is the first year of the 15-year life cycle of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
He stated that the forum was put together to drum more support for safety of journalists and stand up for freedom of information as a fundamental freedom and as a human right as well as add voices to the quest for the protection of press freedom from censorship and surveillance overreach.
Urging the media to avail themselves the privilege the FOI Act provides, he said that the onus now lies with journalists as well as the civil society to use their roles effectively in demanding for improved access to information.
In his presentation, a Professor of Mass Communication at Caleb University, Nosa Owens Ibie who spoke on the topic ‘Freedom of Expression as Fundamental Freedom and Human Rights’ noted that journalists must have it clearly in their psyche that there is no absolute freedom anywhere in the world as countries have different peculiarities in the way the media is being treated. For him, though not yet a good example, Nigeria is relatively better in terms of press freedom when compared with some other countries. He observed that in the last 10 years, no newspapers or TV stations have been shut, an indication that all is still well in Nigeria as against what happens in other places.
On her part, Head, Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Professor Abigail Ogwezzy Ndisika, speaking on the topic ‘Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists in the Digital Age’, noted that the emergence of social media has widen the scope of freedom of expression. She implored journalists to avail themselves the opportunities the social media avail besides ensuring that the ethics of the profession is upheld in the course of duty.
She noted that though many media organizations were still struggling with improving working conditions of their employees, journalist must be wary not to throw caution to the wind by exposing themselves to practice that could lead to their death.
“There is need for us to establish rapport with government as well as the ordinary people in the overall interest of our safety. Over the year, lack of communication and suspicion between media, government and the people have always been the bane that leads to violent act against journalists and loss of lives of many journalists.
She stated “Both the media and security agencies must see themselves as complementary and not adversaries. Government must ensure the protection of vulnerable media establishments.
“Besides, there must be regular trainings and retraining of journalists such that they are in tune with changing realities and dynamics of the profession.”
She however, urged media practitioners to be conscious of their personal safety and ensure they avoid areas designated as flashpoints.
“We must also understand the dynamics and cultures of the environments we are covering. In addition, sectoral agencies in the medias such as NGE, NUJ must live up to their responsibilities as regards press freedom and safety of journalists”
Ogwezzy-Ndisika noted that though journalists could ask for information, it does not give room for them to be irresponsible with the information they got.