The Nigerian media practitioners have been urged to practice advocacy journalism in order to address Nigerian security challenges and restore peace, as the maintenance of peace and security is a collective responsibility.
Three Resource Persons at the Natıonal Quarterly Media Workshop organized by National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Professor Femi Shaka, Ben Tomoloju and Jahman Anikulapo, all harped on this in their presentations, telling the participants that they must also conversant with the necessary provisions in the Nigerian Constitution, in addition to abiding by professional ethics in the mass media.
Jahman Anikulapo, Editor of The Guardian on Sunday, in his paper, titled, “Why have you stopped asking questions?” raised fundamental questions on the Nigerian nation, its people and habits, the manner journalism is practiced, the attitude of people and publishers toward journalism and the journalist in addition to the perception of the journalist towards the job, and commended NICO for organising the workshop, in spite of the limitations.
He stated: “This kind of workshop by NICO is very important. I commend the Executive Secretary, Dr. Barclays Ayakoroma, for it; because in the media houses, reporters do not have this kind of opportunity. If such an idea is mooted, what you will be asked is: How much will it cost? It is always seen from the point of view of the money that will be spent. The journalists need constant training. The society needs the journalists. I remember that when the Cultural Policy for Nigeria was formulated 25 years ago, as Journalists, we were invited. Journalists were part of it. Culture is important to a nation. The question is: How has the policy been implemented?”
He continued: “As an Arts Writers, we were into review of books, drama, and art exhibition. We gave attention to Nigerian literature, theatre and art, including artists, authors, publishers and publishing houses. But at at a point, we decided to go into advocacy journalism, where we reported the issues that came up in these places, the feeling of the people about the arts, literature and culture. There are so many issues; like the state of National Arts Theatre, the declining standard of reading and education. Questions need to be asked on these issues. That was why I decided to title my paper, “Why have we stopped asking questions?” I am concerned that journalists are no longer asking questions on the state of arts and culture in Nigeria. The same is applied to security challenges and why we do not have peace in Nigeria. My recommendation is that we should practice advocacy journalism, which will afford journalists the opportunity to ask relevant questions. In addressing such questions, the journalism you practice will be beneficial to the people.”
On his part, Professor Femi Shaka a film and media scholar, in the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, averred that adhering to the professional ethics in the mass media was very important, noting that lack of the above was a drawback to media practitioners, eager to present a lofty image of social responsibility to the society.
He stated in his paper, “Media Ethics and Security Reporting: Agenda for Media Practitioners,” that it was also a problem to media institutions aiming to strike a balance between profit and the responsibility of acting as the conscience of society.”
Continuing, he added: “Every one of these so-called stakeholders would wish that media ethics is perceived from their perspective. I delivered a paper where I spoke to media practitioners on “Truth and Morality in the Mass Media.” In the discussions that followed my presentation, many of the print and broadcast journalists present expressed anxiety over moral degeneration among media practitioners, as a result of the influx of all manner of persons into the profession. They also complained of lack of regular in-service training for journalists, placing of journalists in the same salary scale with other public servants operating on the 8am to 4pm working hours, lack of a comprehensive insurance policy, harassment by government officials in the line of duty, poor remuneration, and pressures from publishers and owners of media institutions.”
Noting that these impediments were the major sources of moral compromise, which negated the desire of the media practitioners to furnish the public with the “truth,” the film scholar asked who the media practitioner is morally duty bound: Do media practitioners owe their moral duty to themselves as professionals, to their clientele of readers and viewers, to their media organizations or firms, to their professional colleagues, or to their society?
He answered that the issue of ethics and professionalism in the mass media is a subject matter that requires regular scrutiny so it has to guide the conscience of journalists in the line of their duties, adding, “So for media practitioners to make judgments based on a sound ethical principle, they should be made to undergo regular in-service trainings, and this kind of workshop being organized by NICO.”
Veteran journalist, Ben Tomoloju, who was a pioneer arts journalist in Nigeria, said in his paper; “Propagating Peace and Security through the Media: Agenda for Arts Writers and Editors,” that arts writers should be at home with issues on constitutionality, by arming themselves with the Nigerian Constitution, because: “it will help them educate and inform the people when their rights are being infringed upon. This is because the arts writers are the conscience of the people that will always tell them the truth.”
The workshop, with the theme, “Propagating Peace and Security through the Media: Agenda for Arts Writers and Editors,” took place at the Lecture Theatre, Nigerian Institute for International Affairs (NIIA), No. 13/15 Kofo Abayomi Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, and more than 30 Arts Writers and Editors, who attended, expressed their appreciation to NICO for driving the capacity building process of journalists on the arts and culture desk.