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Scholars meet, interrogate national interest, freedom of expression

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Pressed to educate the public on issues around national interest and freedom of expression, scholars and communicators have resolved to put the issues on the front burners in a confab.

The Association of Communication Scholars & Professionals of Nigeria (ACSPN) explains that a confab to be held in Abeokuta will feature an ACSPN Female Researchers Panel, facilitated by the ACSPN Diaspora Coordinator, Europe, and the Continents, Dr. Oluyinka Esan, Reader, Media and Film Studies, University of Winchester, UK.
 
The ACSPN Female Researchers Network was established after the 5th Annual Conference 2018, at Asaba.

 
ACSPN’ seeks to contribute its quarter to the development of Nigeria through the various programmes it organizes.

In a telephone chat with The Guardian, Prof Nosa Owens-Ibie, General Secretary, ACSPN, spoke on the challenges in the communication industry and goals of the association.

Owens-Ibie, who is also the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Caleb University, said the theme of the conference, ‘National Interest, Freedom of Expression and Governance in Africa’ would discuss issues of national interest, which has become more evident in the dynamics of all areas of development; political, economic, religious and so on.

He said, “The association is focused, with a responsibility to put on the front burner things that can move us forward, locally and globally. It has become necessary to interrogate the interceptions of national interest and freedom of expression. We are a transitioning democracy, but the issues have always been around the manner of our progress; are their real development, are there changes that point to our making some fundamental progress in the direction of having a more enabling space for the development that we all crave.

“Within this context, you have variable interpretations of the concepts of national interest. But what is national interest? Of course, there is a development theory that subordinates individual rights and other things associated with the legal environment in the interest of development.”

Ibie pointed out that there is a national interest that is mostly identified by politicians, and another identified by government. Adding, “What is the national interest of the businessman who has come into the country to make money? What is his drive? Is it the good of Nigeria? How well are they able to identify with the logic of our system? It’s a whole mixed bag, and the challenge that this holds to the freedom of expression is very clear.”

He said that though the constitution of Nigeria guarantees freedom of expression and fundamental obligation of state principle gives to the media the responsibility of holding government accountable to the demands of development, the issue of how the media report conflict situations; how much they expose and the focus of a particular coverage. “How well does a particular coverage situate with the expectations given the preliminary interests across the country. The whole idea is how do we begin to reach some consensus within the context of national security?

“Now, instead of marketing communication, there is a lot of stereotyping; issues of gender equality and so on. Parts of the problem arise from patterns of creativity. Women are often portrayed as merchandise. How does the freedom to be creative situate well with the need to get out of the box of stereotypes? There is a lot to discuss. Nigeria is a dream that must be realised.”

Reacting to the impact of the conference on the country so far, Ibie said the association collaborated with UNESCO to look at the curriculum in the past. “We have not just focused on doing things for the sake of another routine assembly of people who want to socialize, but we have always targeted what would add value.

“We did a research for Ford Foundation on the 2015 general elections, it was available just in time before the 2019 elections, to shape the narratives as far as getting a more enhanced political space is concerned. We are working now on developing media information literacy materials for non-curricular activities.

We have been empowering people through our Empowering Series, where we move from tertiary institutions to impact lives,” he added.

Another highlight of the event would be the launch of the fourth in the ACSPN Book Series, titled ‘Fake News and Hate Speech: Narratives of Political Instability’.


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