The Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria (ACSPN) has called on the media to at all times strictly adhere to constitutional obligations of holding government accountable.
Another call was also made that journalists should seek alternative sources of funding to enhnce their professional responsibility.
This was at the just concluded 8th conference of ACSPN that was held in Port Harcourt, South-South Nigeria.
The dominant discussion at the conference was the call by various guests speakers that the media should “not shirk its constitutional responsibility in order not to endanger democracy.
At a well-attended event that took place at the Faculty of Law of Rivers State University on September 1st and 2nd, 2021, guest speakers at the opening ceremony, panellists and discussants at the conference all made a strong wake-up call for media in line with the theme of the conference: ‘Media and Citizens Participation in Governance for Accountability and Peace in the Society’,
These views were reflected in the communique of the conference which was signed by the General Secretary and Vice-Chancellor of Caleb University, Prof. Nosa Owens-Ibie, and made available to The Humanitarian Times Friday night by the association’s Public Relations Officer, Lanre Arogundade.
Vice-Chancellor of the University, and host of the event, Professor Sunday Okogbule, said the media should ensure that elected leaders abide by the provision of Chapter 2 of the Constitution of Nigeria, which defines the primary purpose of government as the promotion of the security and well-being of the people.”,
He deplored the cost of governance of Nigeria even as he urged the media “to embrace advocacy for the reduction so that money could be freed for developmental purposes.”
Rivers State Commissioner for Information, Mr Paulinus Nsirim, who was also at the conference, urged the media “to focus on how the absence of positive values in national life has eroded development in all spheres.”
Nsirim said the media should rather promote “the philosophy of leaving a positive legacy to avoid jeopardizing the future of the next generation”.
Reputation management and communications specialist, Dr Nkwocha,encouraged journalists across the country “to uphold the roles assigned to them in the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, so as “to engender sustainable peace and unity in the country”.
Speaking on the conference theme, Dr Jossey Nkwocha prompted the audience of the provisions of section 22 that state: “The press, radio television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people.”
Based on this, he said some of the fundamental objectives that the mass media should uphold include the provision of section 23 which states that the national ethics shall be “discipline, integrity, the dignity of labour, social justice, religious tolerance, self-reliance and patriotism”.
He equally mentioned section 14, sub-section 3, which states that “The composition of Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or a few ethnic or other sectional groups in the Government or any of its agencies”.
According to the communication specialist journalists should at all timed “be courageous enough to draw government attention to the fundamental objectives to reduce agitations of marginalisation and enhance peace in the country”.
He, therefore, called on the ACSPN and UNESCO to organise training for journalists on crisis reporting and peacebuilding reporting skills.
President of ACSPN, Prof Umaru Pate, said “while the constitutional role of the media to hold government accountable was not in doubt factors militating against the effective performance such as the issues of poor funding, competition from social media, the safety of journalists and decline in media credibility, among others, should be urgently addressed.
At the end of the conference, the association put forward a 14-point resolution and recommendations which they believe would enhance the capacity of the media to promote democracy, peace and development. And that includes:-
“Media organisations should explore new business models to address the challenges of funding;
“Journalists should advocate for media development fund that should support media organisations;
“Journalists should advocate for bailout support for the media as is the case with other sectors, especially in difficult times, such as the pandemic or recession;
“Media organisations should collaborate and engage stakeholders for necessary support;
“Citizens need to go back to the value system and own up and not blame the government for every societal problem;
“Media literacy should be encouraged and funded by the government and other funding bodies to ensure that citizens understand ways to engage the media more appropriately;
“Journalists should uphold and promote professional ethics to ensure adherence and credibility in the media;
“Women should be more proactive in engaging with the media by exploring available avenues, such as media phone-in programmes, new media platforms, films, among others, to tell their stories;
“Media organisations should focus on training and retraining of journalists to enable them to update skills and knowledge on current issues;
“Journalists’ safety should be taken more seriously by media organisations which should ensure robust insurance schemes and hazard provisions for journalists;
“Media organisations should ensure that the welfare of journalists is taken seriously to ensure that they effectively carry out their roles without compromise;
“Media should constantly remind citizens of their obligation to uphold societal values;
“Journalists should fully harness the benefits of Freedom of Information Act to hold government accountable; and
“Media organisations should ensure easy access to the media for their audience, to enhance their participation in governance through the media.”
Key attendees at the conference include Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Nlerum Sunday Okogbule, the chief host; Dr Jossy Nkwocha, group head of Corporate Communications at Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals and Fertiliser Ltd, Port Harcourt, President of ACSPN and Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University, Kashere, Gombe State, Prof. Umaru Pate, who was the keynote speaker.