The Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO) is set to inaugurate a nine-member National Media Complaints Commission in the first week of April.
NPO, made up of the Newspaper Proprietors Association, the Nigerian Guild of Editors and the Nigerian Union of Journalists, had last month named members of the commission to be headed by Emeka Izeze, a former managing director of the Guardian Newspaper.
The nine members of the commission are drawn from the media, academia, the bar, civil society and a representative from the House of Representatives. The constitution of the body comes in the wake of attempts by the House of Representatives to amend the law setting up the Nigerian Press Council, with new clauses many felt were extreme and limited freedom of the press.
Lanre Idowu, the Editor-in-Chief of Diamond Publications and one of the members named by NPO confirmed to LEADERSHIP that the official inauguration of the National Ombudsman is expected to take place in the first week of April.
Explaining the role of the ombudsman, he said there are issues that warrant some house cleaning because they do not want interlopers or outsiders to set up their own body. So, the organised media, he said, was concerned enough to try and put in place a mechanism like the ombudsman as a way of helping to foster better understanding between the media and the general public.
He said, “Let me say right from the outset, the body has not really taken off. In the first week of April, we will be formally inaugurated and can then start the work. I may not be able to talk categorically. I talk generally about the idea, the concept but the members have not met, we haven’t done anything.”
The concept, he said, needs to be further explained to the general public so that the public will understand how it works and how it will serve as a very cheap and effective option to mediate between the society and media professionals.
Idowu however said, “The idea is not to penalise or for the commission acting as an organisation imposing fines, is not the concept of the Media Complaints Commission. Rather, I think it can stand as an honest arbitrator on issues of ethical breaches. It does not stop anyone that feels the media has perhaps libeled him or her, from using the courts.
“The Media Complaints Commission will be guided by the code of ethics for Nigerian journalists. That code of ethics has 16 articles that range from editorial independence to the right to the public interest and the right to access to information. It has different provisions including one on hate speech. That will be like the guiding Bible or holy book that guides the conduct of professionals. So, the pronouncement on what provision of the code of ethics has been breached.”