A two-day seminar on the theme “Towards Vision 20:2020: Cultivating a Responsible Press and Responsive Governance”, organized by the Nigerian Press Council in furtherance of its statutory functions of sensitizing and fostering the attainment and maintenance of high professional standards by the Press, took place in Abuja Thursday 19th – Friday 20th November, 2009.
The forum was organized to sensitize media professionals on the strategic significance of what they publish and the need to be more responsible, ethical and positive in their duties as the Fourth Estate of the Realm on the one hand and on the need for public officers and policy executors to be proactive and responsive to issues on governance in order not to impede development and the delivery of the anticipated dividends of democracy.
- The forum, which was attended by about 50 participants comprising media proprietors, publishers, chief executives, editors, public information managers, stakeholders in the industry, politicians, government officers and government agencies.
Discussions centred on the following sub-themes:
- the role of the media in ensuring that governance is accountable to the people
- Media and Government: partners or adversaries in a democracy?
- Obstacles in the path of the media in rebrandingNigeria;
- The message and the messenger as a challenge for an envisioned development
- A responsible press and good governance: Panacea forNigeria’s image and development; and
- An adversary press versus sensibility of governance: security implication for a democratic society
After the deliberation, the seminar made the following observations and recommendations:
(a) Having recognized the recriminations that followed the public hearing on the proposed Nigerian Press and Practice of Journalism Council Bill now before the National Assembly, the seminar agreed that strengthening such industry watchdogs as the Nigerian Press Council was imperative and welcomed the steps taken to reach a consensus on the areas of disagreement in the amendment of the Nigerian Press Council Act 1992.
(b) It acknowledged that since both government and the media
were working for the improvement of the socio-economic status of all citizens, the high level of recriminations in their relationship was unnecessary and that both institutions need to chart a new course and build bridges in their relationship in the national interest.
(c) Incessant harassment of journalists in the course of doing
their lawful duties is unhealthy to the practice of journalism and good governance. The seminar therefore called on security agencies in a democracy to review their procedures and strategies and seek consistent interactions in handling the media, so as to facilitate a greater understanding of each other’s duties and roles.
(d) The seminar held that combating corruption was essential to
any genuine development in the country and it unanimously underscored the need for the National Assembly to expeditiously pass the Freedom of Information Bill, without any conditions as obtains in the 80 other countries that had passed the same Act.
(e) Since Section 22 of the Constitution has specifically assigned to the media oversight responsibilities, Section 39, which provides for Freedom of Expression should be revisited to include the Freedom of the Press, since only the Press was specifically assigned the role of holding those in governance accountable to the people.
(f) The Seminar reiterated the need to re-brand the country’s image but advised that the implementation of the project should not be restricted to the Federal Ministry of Information and Communications alone. It therefore recommended that re-branding should begin at the highest level with the President as the prime brand manager.
(g) In order to drive the re-branding campaign to all nooks and
crannies of the country, the seminar recommended that governments in power should not be allowed to control the media so that they can serve the interests of all and, in addition, we must practice true federalism to make the branding slogan of ‘’Good People, Great Nation’’ meaningful.
(h) The seminar further noted the potency of the media in driving the re-branding process and enjoined it to be “Vision helpers” and not “Vision killers”.
(i) The Seminar participants stressed the need for the media, as the watchdog of the society, to re-brand itself so as to be more effective in the discharge of its constitutional responsibilities.
(j) The Seminar noted the generally poor economic environment under which Journalists ply their trade and consequently stressed the need for media owners to accord primacy to the remuneration and insurance of Journalists in their employment.
(k) The seminar noted the new trend of citizen journalism being largely driven by the internet and advised mass media training institutions to accommodate same with a view to enriching their curriculum.
Nigerian Press Council