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Engaging The Media Towards Robust Democracy and Development   By Patrick Albert 

Engaging The Media Towards Robust Democracy and Development  By Patrick Albert 

 

It is with great delight that I, on behalf of the State Executive Council (SEC) of our noble Union, wishes to welcome all our distinguished guests, Chief Executives of Media establishments, past chairmen of NUJ and veterans, and our members generally to this historic inaugural session of the 2017 NUJ Press Week.

As a worthy professional body, the Press Week is very symbolic to us. It is largely our stocktaking festival which comes to enliven our literary relevance to the society.   In the light of this, the theme for the 2017 Press Week is, “The Nigerian Media and Nationhood.”  The theme, as will be dissected during the session, reflects the fact that our duty is congruent to the health of the Nation.

The theme has other interesting sub topics namely “Hate Speech, the Media: and National Development” and “Social Media and the Challenges of Social Responsibility.” We will also have health talks on “Diabetes, hypertension and Cancer,” by Bioclin Care.

Let me restate that as the Fourth Estate of the Realm and the Society’s Watch Dog, it behoves on us to preview very frequently, issues not only to improve the professional skills of journalists but to also carry out a prognosis on issues so as to offer insightful solutions that will enhance the peace, law, order and good governance of the society.

The Press Week Committee has attracted erudite scholars, including an eminent jurist, Justice Ntong Ntong of the High Court 2, Ikot Ekpene to speak on the theme and the various topics. Needless to say that these assembled “Oracles” will meet our collective expectations in providing stimulating insights that will enhance our competence and better public perception of the role of the Media as well as proffer other suggestions towards the general good and development of our society.

We therefore express our deep appreciation to all our resource persons for taking time out to prepare literary meals for which we will all be fed during the two-day sessions.

We must re-echo our firm believe as patriots that all hands must be on deck to grow our Nation. As noted that despite our 57 years of Nationhood and sustained 18 years of democratic rule, the state of our development, unity and oneness have not been very satisfactory. We are still plagued by factors bordering on corruption, ethnicity, religious fanaticism, nepotism and large scare impunity in public offices. We must resolve not to fail. As the giant of Africa, much as our growth impacts on other countries positively, likewise it will impact negatively if the reverse is the case.

Democracy remains the most ideal means of governance.  It is not really on the basis of being styled as the “Government of the People by the People and for the People” but by the fact that democracy is open, elastic and has procedural checks and balances to contain executive dictatorship.

As embedded in a democratic society, there must be unimpeded access to free information so as to enable citizen participation. This can only be achieved if the Press enjoys  the freedom to carry out its duties in line with public and government expectations.  However, it is expected that media practitioners must adhere to journalistic standards, vis-a-vis the Code of Ethics of the profession.

Of course, the driving spirit for all Nigerians, in any profession, must be patriotism. Accordingly, we cannot talk about having sustainable development and sound democratic norms, without adherence to patriotism.

One must be totally dedicated and loyal to the State. This is a rule that should be jealously assimilated by all Nigerians irrespective of the professional callings and endeavours. We charge our members – journalists, especially the politicians who are the main drivers of our democratic system to put the interest of the nation first in all their endeavours.

  A preview of the past, clearly reveals that our chequered political experience soon after independence and subsequent military interregnum, resulted from high level display of political intolerance, religious bigotry, aggrandisement, nepotism and rascality on the part of the political class and not really on the systems we operated.

As still witnessed today, these endemic features are still with us. Will the Press be exempted as not being part and parcel in the political failures of the Nation? No, we cannot totally exempt ourselves from the woes of the past. However, it stands clearly that we contributed immensely to the success of our independence and in the restoration of democracy against military rule and its tyrannical management of our nation.

      It is disheartening that we have newspapers and reporters who exhibit partisanship in their reportage than official news platforms of political parties. We have newspapers and reporters who are more judgemental than the Law Courts that have jurisdictions. We have newspapers and reporters who fabricate, twist and churn out wild imaginations against individuals. They publish ‘opinions’ as ‘news’. To curb this trend, we have regularly engaged in training and re-training of our members to enable them to be ethically compliant.

  We call on members of the public who are maligned to seek legal redress or report to us directly as our Ethics and Disciplinary Committee is handy to arbitrate on such matters. Largely, we do know that those who flout professional ethical demands are not our members, but where any member engage in ethical misdemeanor, sanctions awaits such immediately.

     In the words of William Bernbach, a renowned American publisher “All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.”

    An American author, Sheryl Crow, adds, “When “news stories” are broken, do we not expect a certain amount of fact-checking or source-checking? One has to ask if this falls under the guise of sloppy reporting or deception as a source of spin. We seem to accept a certain amount of deception and we seem to be helpless to doing anything about it, as illustrated so clearly by where we are right now in this moment in our history.”

  We also share the fears of another American political activist, Danny Glover on the growing trend in the Media.  Glover stated, “Today, the media dictatorship is becoming a substitute to military dictatorship. The big economic groups are using the media and decide who can speak, who the good guy is and who the bad guy is…”

We must restate that we in the Press are well conscious of the duties before us. The Nigeria Union of Journalists as a responsible professional body will continue to drive the practice towards professional excellence. As the public depends on us for news feeds, we will continue to ensure that we inform, educate, enlighten and entertain the people accurately based on the ethics of the profession.

Finally, we wish to inform us that as part of the activities marking the 2017 NUJ Press Week, our Awards/Dinner Night on Friday, November 17, 2017 at the Emerald Event Centre, Edet Akpan Avenue, Uyo by 6pm will feature professional/excellence and commendation awards to deserving journalists as well as individuals and corporate organizations. We invite you all.

Once again, we welcome you all to this inaugural session of the 2017 Press Week and wish us all God’s blessings and fruitful week.

– Being an address by Elder Patrick Albert, the Chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Akwa Ibom State Council on the occasion of the  commencement of the 2017 NUJ Press Week Lecture Sessions at the NUJ Press Centre, Information Drive, Off IBB Way, Uyo,  on Monday, November 13, 2017

 

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