The mass media, which refers to the diverse array of media technologies that reach a large audience via mass communication and the variety of outlets through which communication takes place, which majorly include the broadcast media such as radio and television that transmit information electronically and the print media that transmit information via physical objects such as newspapers and magazines are very important and essential in the history of humanity, as individuals and society as a whole look to, as well as depend on for information and awareness of things happening around them.
Thus, media practitioners or journalists, as those responsible for gathering information that will be transmitted or disseminated via the various media outlets are called, play vital roles on day to day basis by ensuring that they hunt for, and gather relevant information for the consumption of people in the society. In the process of hunting and gathering every piece of information they need, the journalist, like every other professional follow some laid down rules or ethics, to ascertain that they disseminate the right information at all times and avoid spreading fake or misleading news, which could be detrimental to their image or that of their news target. In the past and even in recent times, there have been occasions where some aggrieved person(s) through their lawyers and the courts have slammed one charge or the other at journalists and media organizations for carrying supposed wrong reports of them (aggrieved person).
Some of these incidents were seen to be resolved amicably, and settled out of court, while others for reasons best known to the parties involved drag for days into weeks, into months and even years, and goes endlessly like that. Another twist to information and news dissemination came with the advent of the social media, which has turned almost every citizen of the world into media practitioners. This form of media so to say, has not only turned the world into a global village, but has also made lots of people to become celebrities even in the corners of their rooms. All one need do is pick their phone write something, record an audio or video, post it on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on, and within the twinkle of an eye, the item(s) of interest is already trending all over the world.
The social media even became a source of concern lately in Nigeria when the social media was blamed for the rise in misinformation during the #EndSARS protests against police brutality. Some Nigerians used the opportunity to call on the censorship of social media, claiming it is the major source of fake news in the country. Just like when it was first considered in 2015 in the senate, and when it was reintroduced in 2019, Nigerians condemned the social media bill, describing it as a draconian and deliberate attempt to stifle citizens’ freedom of expression. Moving back to professionalism, and looking at the main stream media, that is the radio, television, newspapers and magazines, professionals in the field have individually and collectively looked at the problems bedeviling the media industry, the effects of this problem on media practitioners, as well as proffered solutions to some of these problems.
One of such is the one-day media workshop on Peace Building and Promotion of Religious Tolerance in Post-COVID-19, organized by Catholic Media Practitioners of Nigeria, CAMPAN and Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria on December 3, 2020, at Veritas University, Bwari, Abuja. Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, Special Assistant on Media and Communications to Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN President, His Eminence, Rev. Dr. Samson Ayokunle in a paper he presented at the workshop, titled: “The Dynamics and Impact of Conflict of interest in The Media Space-Christian Perspective”, noted that like every profession, Journalism has its own ethics that guide the professionals. Pastor Oladeji’s paper focused on five ethics that guide journalism, namely: Truth and Accuracy, Independence, Fairness and Impartiality, Humanity and Accountability.
Speaking on Truth and Accuracy, he said Journalists cannot always guarantee ‘truth’, yet getting the facts right is the cardinal principle of journalism. The professionals, he said should always strive for accuracy, give all the relevant facts they have, and ensure that these facts have been checked. He added that where they (journalists) cannot corroborate information, they should make this known in their report. On the ethic of Independence, he said journalists must be independent of their reports; they should not act, formally or informally, on behalf of special interests whether political, corporate, religious or cultural. “They are expected to declare to their Editors or the audience if their interest; political affiliations, financial arrangements or other personal information that might constitute a conflict of interest, if there is any.” On Fairness and Impartiality, Oladeji said: “Most stories have at least two sides. While there is no obligation to present every side in every piece, stories should be balanced and have context. Objectivity and impartial reporting build trust and confidence.
Speaking on Humanity, he said: “Journalists should do no harm. What they publish or broadcast may be hurtful, but they should be aware of the impact of their words and images on the lives of others.” He also said that a sure sign of professionalism and responsible journalism is the ability to be accountable. He added that when they commit errors, journalists must correct these errors and their expressions of regret must be sincere and not cynical. “They (journalists) must listen to the concerns of the public or lose their respect. They may not change what readers write or say, but they will always provide remedies when we are unfair. This is why every media house allows right to reply or rejoinder from the public. Any media house should be ready to retract their misleading story as soon as practicable. It is a pity that in Nigeria, many media houses put the rejoinder or retraction inside instead of the front page except it is a court order. “All these are good and acceptable, but how true are the practitioners to these Experts task media professionals on peace, religious, ethnic tolerance in reportage laudable ethics? It is easier said than done.
Most of the time, many practitioners turn a blind eye to these Core Principles of this noble career. They write stories that are one-sided, not mindful of the implications. Some of them are more Catholic than the Pope or more weeping than the bereaved while doing their jobs. Too bad”, he said. According to Oladeji, CAN has been at the receiving end of this professional blunder. He said: “In Christianity, some misguided Christians are misusing their freedom in Christ to issue complete falsehood or half-truth statements whenever they are not pleased with the leadership. And it is painful to note that some media houses, especially the print media would publish such as news without cross checking their facts from us. “Sometimes, efforts to call the attention of the affected papers would not be fruitful, whereas such stories were libelous and slanderous, which they couldn’t defend yet some will be grandstanding as if telling them the truth is asking for the impossible. I will give you some instances to buttress this point.” Giving instances of errors made against CAN by some journalists and media houses, Oladeji said: “A journalist conducted an interview with the CAN President on phone while His Eminence was outside the country on a visit with a top US Government functionary to the country.
In his report, the journalist inserted his personal opinion into the story, and when his attention was called to it, he first refused to own up until we asked him to produce the recorded tape. “There was a time some disgruntled elements were using three leading newspapers in the country to discredit the CAN President because of our intra-election. Those elements were making spurious statements with baseless accusations and those media would accept such stories hook, line and sinker without balancing their stories. The CAN President had to prevail on the legal unit against taking them to court in some occasions. “Again, a leading Lagos-based newspaper once published a falsehood sourced from the social media, where some libelous comments were made against His Eminence. And when we drew the attention of the media, they simply asked us to write a rejoinder without any sign of remorse. “Recently, a leading Television Station in the country went with a fake news claiming that the National Headquarters of the Christian Association of Nigeria was on fire! While we were trying to set the record straight, a journalist with the Television station spared no words to condemn our efforts.
Thank God for the maturity of the management that quickly did the needful to set the record straight. We learnt that some youths were already planning to attack some religious and public institutions as a way of fighting back.” Speaking on a tale of two cartoons about insensitive media practitioners, Oladeji said: “When a Pastor was accused of raping a lady some 18 years ago recently, a columnist went to town with a critical Back Page Opinion where she verbalized the accused. As if that was not enough, an illustrative cartoon, showing a man urinating on the Bible was added! Thank God that the management of the paper sanctioned those found guilty. “Few days ago, an Abuja based newspaper published a cartoon where the paper sought to spite one of the cardinal practices in Christianity,‘Tithing.’ The fact that someone went to court to challenge Arabic inscriptions on the Naira notes does mean he or she has the support of all Nigerian Christians and Churches.
The cartoon was making a mockery of Christians paying tithe. It was published on a Sunday. In Nigeria, anybody can become anything. Imagine a pro-Christian newspaper published a cartoon attacking Muslims giving out Zakat on a Friday! Journalism practice should be done with responsibility.” Speaking further on errors made by media practitioners, he said: “An insensitive Cover Story. Listen to this: ‘Good afternoon sir. We’re doing a report on a 48-year-old pastor, Nduka Anyanwu who pleaded guilty to defiling and impregnating two teenage sisters. The police in Anambra State also arrested one Prophet Ikechukwu Nwadike over the alleged defilement and other indecent sexual acts against an 11-yearold girl. They are among the reported 44 ‘men of God’ suspected to have defiled minors in two years.
Over 58 victims sexually assaulted, some were impregnated and made to abort, while others were drugged and infected with sexually transmitted diseases. What is the reaction of CAN to these cases? It is for our tomorrow edition.’ This was coming from a Muslim journalist who works for a pro-Islamic media house. Could they turn the story around to be about Islamic leaders who are accused of similar crimes? If the paper was not out for a mischief, couldn’t it balance the story by investigating allegations against religious leaders in the country covering the two religions? “We call on all practicing journalists in the country to be guided by the core principles of the profession in carrying out their responsibilities. Ironically, most of those who were guilty of doing this to CAN are Christians! I remember when I reminded some of them that they are Christians, yet they are allowing themselves to be used against the Body of Christ, their response was ‘We are doing our job.’ “Another shocking experience we are getting is the failure of a government owned Television Station to use our Press Statements that are critical of the Federal government.
The same TV station has stopped covering Church Sunday services, again, as if doing so constitutes a threat to the unity and peace of the country.” Still on CAN’s experiences with the media, he said: “We also have two print media who outrightly refused to use our Press Statements that do not hail the Federal government. Imagine the unending killings in the land like the recently killed 43 rice farmers in Borno State, such media houses will not treat any Statement that is critical of the failed system. One of them will not even touch our story that is complaining about discrimination in the country. This is totally unacceptable and unjustifiable. After all, government goes, government comes, but the State House remains. Hopefully, this forum will address this professional misconduct by some media practitioners. If these are some of our experiences from the traditional media houses, you could imagine what we may be going through with the social media. If the gold rust, what becomes of the iron? Let our journalists be more responsible and sensitive while doing their jobs.
” Presenting a paper titled, “The Nigerian Media As A Tool for Social Change, Cohesion and Development, Prof. Aduku Armstrong Idachaba of Veritas University said over the years, several themes have been propounded regarding the fact that the media has been a veritable instrument of education, information, entertainment, orientation, shaper of public opinion, watchdog of the society, agenda setter, molder of society, bridge builder and even propaganda. He noted that with the ever evolving nature of technology, the role of the media has become even more sophisticated and complex, especially with the advent of the social media, which has changed media flow and made the media more powerful and easily accessed from different platforms, including Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and so on. He said: “This evolution in the media has increased rapid dynamization in terms of human interractiveness. “Broadcasting therefore is unique in its capabilities, its audio-visual functions. With the convergence of the media, it has further magnified how powerful broadcasting is. “Perhaps, one of the social values that must be vigorously pursued by the media is the respect for the dignity of man.
This value has been so eroded in our society today and it is being exhibited in the type of reportage we see on our various media. Therefore, the media must ensure that even as it exercises its right to the freedom of expression as agents of society, caution must be taken to ensure that it does not manipulate the public for its personal or sectional rights and privileges to the detriment of national interest. As aptly put by the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, ‘Broadcasting shall promote values and norms, which foster the well-being and cooperation of the various segments of the Nigerian Society.’ (0.2.2.1c).” Idachaba said: “Nigeria is a country with rich multi-cultural diversities, these diversities connote different views, attitudes, behaviours, religious beliefs and opinions. How then can the media perform its expected role?” ‘It is the role of the media to highlight these unique differences and harness the potentials of each for the collective good of all and in the national interest of our great country. “The role of the media in the struggles for the evolution of the Nigerian state comes to mind.
On no account, should the media be seen to be portraying one group or community as superior to the other, in order to avoid marginalization or ethnocentrism. At all times, the media should be a unifier, rather than a divider in its reportage and programmes.” On diversity, he said: “Diversity also means that conflicts/crises can arise as views and opinions are different. The media should play the role of a ‘bridge builder’ in times of conflict/crisis for the overall interest of the public and nation. In performing this role, the media should build relationships, support greater cohesion and understanding between people who consider themselves different from one another in their reportage, by ensuring that information sourced from various sources are verified, in order to avoid escalation of conflict/crisis.” He said the media is an indispensable tool in every developmental plan of a nation, adding that the government needs the media to communicate its policies and actions to the public, by educating and enlightening the citizenry. He also added that the people also need a channel to air their grievances and aspirations, for a better standard of living.
“With the deregulation of the broadcast industry, we have been ushered into an era of media pluralism and diversification of media access. Media accessibility, and perhaps also affordability is in a steady increase. These have led to the democratization of the political environment, as well as the increase in auGroup photo of members of the Catholic Media Practitioners Association of Nigeria (CAMPAN) and Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria after the workshop. dience participation in the development process of the nation state, Nigeria. It is in vital recognition of the role that the media can play in national development that the Broadcasting Code makes certain provisions (0.2.2.4) states that Broadcasting shall be to create and promote political awareness”, he said. Also presenting a paper with the title “Media as a tool for social change, cohesion and development”, Alli Hakeem commended the organizers, as he noted that the workshop has come at a time when the country is in dire need of social change, cohesion and development.
He said Nigeria needs social change because over the years, her value system as a nation has been so much compromised and jaundiced that it has become difficult not to argue that the country has drifted away from the path of integrity, honour and decency as a people, and as a nation. “We need cohesion because if we fail to speak with one voice and singularity of purpose, the much desired development of this country will continue to be a mirage. The United Nations defines national development as growth plus change. Change in turn is social, cultural and economic, qualitative as well as quantitative-wise. It says that broadly, development of a nation encapsulates parameters such as development through a planned national economy, increase in agricultural production through application of modern technical know-how, harnessing industrial production, development of human resource, application of science and technology in the production sector, provision of mass education and provision of various facilities to meet the needs and aspirations of the disadvantaged, deprived and poorest of the poor segments of the population.
“Another definition says the term national development is very comprehensive. It includes all aspects of the life of an individual and of a nation. It is holistic in approach. It is a process of reconstruction and development in various dimensions of a nation and development of individuals. It includes full-growth and expansion of industries, agriculture, and education, social, religious and cultural institutions. National development it says implies development of a nation as a whole. It can be best defined as the all-round and balanced development of different aspects and facets of the nation; political, economic, social, cultural, scientific and material”, he said. Examining how the Media, as the fourth estate of the realm, can be used to engender social change, cohesion and national development, Hakeem stressed on the need to evolve new ethos to take Nigeria back to the path of sanity and peace which is indispensable to national development. He said: “COVID-19 or not, it bears repeating that Nigeria needs social change and cohesion to get to the Promise Land.
As media practitioners, we must constantly remind ourselves that we are agenda setters and watchdogs of the society, and must do all we can, not to remove the wind from the sail of the nation’s ship, “It is sad to note that the media in Nigeria has unwittingly provided platforms for cynics, extremists and naysayers to feather their nests through reportage that make some school of thought believe that we are more of lapdogs of politicians, moneybags and other interests that may not necessarily mean well for the country.” Hakeem noted that to use the media for social change and cohesion, there must be deeper, pragmatic and result focused collaboration between purveyors of news and governments, traditional rulers, religious leaders, community and other leaders to reach out to the masses with messages that could change perception of issues positively and forge a brighter outlook for the nation. On the crucial role traditional and religious leaders should play to contribute to efforts at social change and national development, he noted that though these two groups know what to do, albeit, many of them are still playing the ostrich.
He said: “They are the ones who reserve the front pews in Churches for moneybags, in the mosques, apart from the five daily prayers; they do not set their other programmes underway until the moneybags have arrived. The traditional rulers are the ones who bestow chieftaincy titles on anyone who can buy and pay for such titles, lack of integrity notwithstanding. “Growing up in Lagos from the middle of the last century, my parents and other parents used to tell us children and youths that “a good name is better than gold and silver’’. In this century, however, most of today’s parents tell their children to look at how successful their peers are, and ‘wake up.’ In decades past, parents wanted their children to become lawyers, engineers, doctors, accountants and other professionals, (not journalists though), today parents hardly ask their 20-year-old children how they came about acquiring a car. How many doctors and lawyers are chairmen of committees in our mosques and churches today? Those who are chairmen, did not get to that office by virtue of character or integrity, it is mostly those of them who have deep pockets.
” He said currently, in the political arena, it will be difficult to find a servant-leader politician, adding that the cost of nomination forms for elective offices in each of the political parties is so prohibitive that now that it is not for the faint-hearted. “Whatever lofty ideas you have to contribute to Nigeria’s development as a clean politician or leader, you are better off just discussing it with your spouse at the end of the day’s work or with your colleagues and friends and let it end there. “A school dropout goes to the city and in a space of nine months to one year, he or she returns to the village driving an SUV. The most likely thing that will happen is for the parents to make a feeble attempt at interrogating the source of the newfound wealth by asking: ‘How come you already have a car?’ All the dropout needs to tell the parents is that he or she went into ‘business’ in the city and God blessed the ‘hussle.’