Today has come as a very rewarding moment for the leadership and members of Akwa Ibom State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists. The reason is quite obvious. We have always yearned for a robust training package for our members not only for the usual regular updating of their knowledge, but to address critical areas and to input values that define great journalism such as objectivity, fairness, balance and ethical compliance.
In the light of this, I wish to formally register our utmost appreciation to The Next Edition Newspaper and its Managing Director/Training Coordinator, Mr. Ibanga Isine for collaborating with us to fulfil this dream. For us, the three-day journalism clinic has come as a therapy considering its theme, which is, “Attaining High Impact, Socially-Responsible and Rewarding Journalism Practice in Akwa Ibom States,” and the line-up of eminent resource persons, who will handle the various papers. We commend them all for accepting to participate.
The papers are; Personal Security, Cyber Safety and Where to Obtain Assistance when in Distress Situation” by Peter Nkanga, “How to Discover, Plan and Write Quality Human Interest Stories,” by Azubuike Ishiekwene, Change Your Story: Using Multimedia Tools for Newsgathering and Reporting” by Taiwo Obe, “How to Access Grants and other Local and International Support for Media Professionals” by Dayo Aiyetan, and “How To Avoid Unnecessary Litigations and other Legal Booby Traps” by Sebastine T. Hon.
Others are “How Quality and Responsible Journalism Rewards Society and Media Professionals” by Anietie Usen, “The What, When, Where, Who, Why and How of Investigative Reporting” by Ibanga Isine, “The beauty of Journalism” by Anietie Ukpe, “Self-Critique As An Imperative For Professionalism in Media Practice” by Udeme Nana, “Why Journalism Ethic Should not be compromised by Media Practitioners” by Dayo Aiyeton and “How to improve Government/Media relationship in a democracy” by Tony Afia.
Without equivocation, these topics are quite reflective of our desire to deepen media practice and to lay before us, first, the intrinsic issues of development as relevant to our needs, and also to effectively utilise our profession towards the development of the society.
Let me therefore, in welcoming us all to this opening ceremony, express our profound gratitude to the Almighty God for granting us this day with His exuding grace, knowing that He will surely see us through to the end of the programme.
As far as governance is people-centred, so will journalism continue to play a dominant role in the process through its basic roles of informing, educating, enlightening and entertaining. The effective discharge of these responsibilities by practitioners contribute towards the good health of the society. It therefore demands that training and retraining programme such as we are gathered here today, is needed very regularly to keep our members abreast with evolving trends in the profession as well as policies of government within and beyond.
As a responsible professional body, the NUJ in the State has consistently created avenues to avail members of these opportunities. Apart from using such events as Press Week and World Press Freedom Day respectively, to organise workshops, we have either directly or through sponsorship/collaboration with the State Government, ExxonMobil and other Organisations undertaken such programmes.
We will continue to seek support in this direction in order to build a vibrant media that is positively disposed to developmental journalism in the State and beyond. It must be understood that the Press no matter its perceived short comings cannot be wished away. What this infers, is that the Press must be made to be what it is desired of by the stakeholders in the society, in this case, the Government, the operative institutions and business concerns.
As the Fourth Estate of the Realm and the society’s watch dog, it is within our purview to regularly examine issues not only to broaden our professional proficiency but also to offer insightful answers that will promote peace, law, order and good governance of the society.
Needless to reiterate that when the Media is seen within its constitutional realm, and the required support given, it will surely exercise its onerous task as expected. It is necessary to point out that apart from various international statutes, the Nigerian Media draws strength from the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended. In Chapter II of the Constitution under the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, Section 22, the Media is empowered to hold public officers accountable to the people.
The section states thus, “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.”
What is more, as a further strength to the power of the media, the Freedom of Information Act 2011 grants access to information for the purposes of keeping the public adequately informed, educated, enlightened and guided on the activities of the three arms of government.
The FOI Act states in Section 1(1) thus: “Notwithstanding anything contained in any other Act, law or regulation, the right of any person to access or request information, whether or not contained in any written form, which is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution howsoever described, is established.”
However, this role is not without responsibility. A media practitioner must be guided by the code of ethics of journalism. Every write-up must take legal perspective into consideration. A reporter is expected to ask himself: Is my report fair and accurate? Will it help to build the society or create fear and disaffection? Admittedly, a sound reporter cannot just jump up to publish whatever material that is before him or whatever he imagines.
News material or information received without being subjected to ethical rudiments is bound to be injurious to the society and in some cases, out rightly libellous. This is what a responsible journalist must guide against.
As I have often said, ethical journalism is what gives credence to a professional. It gives validity that a journalist is proficient and worth being respected. In this wise, every story or write-up defines the professional content of a journalist. Presumptive headline or sensational story skewed to hurt an individual or government is not ethical.
In line with the decision of the National Executive Council (NEC) of NUJ to identify genuine members across the country, we will soon publish a compendium of duly certified journalists. The validation of membership will be conducted very soon.
Let me call on public functionaries to be willing to engage media practitioners in the process of information gathering for better information dissemination. Journalists remain reliable partners in the development wheel of the society and every cooperation extended, helps to oil the rolling processes. It is clear that impunity against media practitioners is antithetical to democracy and good governance. It is through good Media relations that ‘bad press’ can be stemmed.
Finally, we do know that this Clinic will surely improve the professional competence of journalists. We encourage participants to take this opportunity seriously.
May God bless us all.
-Being an address of welcome by Elder Patrick Albert, chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Akwa Ibom State Council on the occasion of the opening of a three-day Akwa Ibom Journalism Clinic organised by Next Edition Newspaper in collaboration with NUJ at the Daniel Ekanem Hall, NUJ Press Centre, Uyo, on Wednesday, July 12, 2017.