Participants Call For Improved Press Freedom At Civic Media Lab World Press Freedom Day Event
In commemorating this year’s World Press Freedom Day; the Civic Media Lab in partnership with RoLAC, an initiative of the European Union, implemented by the British Council organised a dialogue session for members of the press in Nigeria
The event held at the Civic Media Lab studios had in attendance speakers, panelists and participants from several major media organisations in the country who shared their experience and positions on Press Freedom in Nigeria.
With the theme, Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation, stakeholders discussed the press and how it can leverage the worldwide conversation in achieving freedom.
In her keynote address, Coordinator of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, Motunrayo Alaka, discussed the Nigerian media in times of Disinformation.
According to her, the media is the referee in a football match. As we have seen in many matches when the referee is biased the integrity of the final score of the game becomes questionable. The independence of the media is, therefore, an all-important factor for the guarantee of the press freedom that births good governance.
She posited that press needs to be free to be able to carry out its function in the society, however, issues such as sustainability, ethics, misinformation and disinformation, lack of professionalism, biased media ownership and liberalization are huge impediments to the media carrying out its role in Nigeria.
Alaka further explained how poor education on the part of the people affects the acceptance of information.
“When a watchdog is accused of its credibility, people lose trust in it,’ she said.
Consequently, she highlighted ways the press can avoid the dangers of disinformation, they include fact-checking before publishing, protecting the whistleblowers, Participation of reporters in social media. She also stressed the need to support the media through solidarity and finding as well as reducing elitism in the media, so it caters for all and sundry.
“When the media is stranded, democracy is stranded,” she ended.
Also speaking at the event, veteran journalist and Media Coach, Lekan Otufodurin discussed the dichotomy of misinformation and disinformation. He explained misinformation as unintentionally giving the wrong report while disinformation is intentionally giving the wrong report.
He further looked at the ethics of journalism and how media organisation flout these codes
“Journalists are not respected in Nigeria rather they are tolerated,” he said.
He also described how headlines can be misleading and the need to interrogate as well as ask tough questions.
Otufodurin charged participants to find out more and reduce repetitive Journalism.
“We need to be more vigilant and not allow ourselves to be used, do more fact-checking and shame when necessary to stop them from taking us for granted, Provide contexts for reports, get other sides to the reports and avoid publishing claims that cannot be substantiated” he added.
In the same vein, Founder of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, urged the media to be brave and courageous and not entangle itself with politicians who in actual fact hamper its progress.
“In this age of media no specific body has control over what is been published and it is important for Journalist to detect fake news. The fake news is usually too good to be true, you need to step back and check properly before you publish,” he posited.
There were several talking points raised during the event to which the speakers and panelists were able to answer and proffer solutions.
On the question of the degree of error a reporter is allowed, Alaka, explained that although errors can be made a retraction of such is necessary. Also, while responding to a question on the security of reporters and payment of salary, she emphasized the importance of the welfare of journalists, as get certain news reports will not get done if security is not taken care of.
She further encouraged journalists to pass their stories to another organization who is likely to publish it in response to a question was raised on editors who do not publish a particular work due to the relationship with a group of people.
During, the panel discussion anchored by Oluwaseun Akinfolarin, which provided answers to the question, is Press freedom a Mirage or a Reality, in Nigeria. The panel featured, Omoyele Sowore, Motunrayo Alaka, David Ajikobi of Africa Check, Abiose Adams of The Cable, Juliana Francis of New Telegraph and Sanmi Falobi of the International Press Centre, Nigeria.
The panelists concluded that Press Freedom in Nigeria is in between a mirage and a reality and they highlighted steps to which it making it a reality can be achieved. They stressed the need for quality leadership, not only in government but also in the newsrooms.
They also charged journalists to make use of all available channels to be credible, ensure that it plays its role in the country. This will allow it to gain public support and offer protection from oppression.
They also call for more fora for journalists to converge and share ideas on better ways to achieve free press in the country.
Speaking after the event, Director of the Civic Media Lab and Convener of the event, Oluwaseun Akinfolarin appreciated all participants and commended the quality discussions at the event.
“We are committed to changing the paradigm of the media in Nigeria and from the discussion we had, we have identified some of the points raised and in coming days, we will be working on ways to create more regular gatherings of journalists as well as developing tools which will help the media achieve this goal,” he added.
Based on the recommendations of all participants at the event, the lab is set to build a platform for an alliance of journalists and Civil society groups to fight for the rights of the Free Press. According to Akinfolarin, the lab will also create tech tools that will help ensure journalists welfare are taken seriously by both media organisation, government and the people.