The Nigerian Press Council (NPC), in collaboration with Forte and Henz Limited, organised a two-day workshop on the Role of the Media in Combating Violent Extremism and Terrorism in Nigeria in Abuja on December 16 and 17, 2021.
The workshop, attended by journalists from the six states in the North-Central Zone and Federal Capital Territory, aimed to train the participants on how the Media, through their reportage, can combat terrorism in Nigeria.
The Executive Secretary of NPC, Mr Francis N. Nwosu, while welcoming the participants, said that the concern of the Council was not on why the media report terrorism in the country but how they report it.
Mr Nwosu added that the workshop would enhance the instrumentality and capacity of media professionals on how to report terrorism and how the activities of terrorists could be mitigated, especially in a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria.
In line with its objective, the workshop featured the presentation of papers, discussions and interactive sessions on the issues pertinent to the role of media in combating terrorism. Four papers were presented at the workshop. The papers are “The Role of the Media in Maintaining Balance between Public Right to Know and National Interest” by Mr Ibe Ikwechegh, a Barrister in Federal Capital Territory; “Code of Ethics and social responsibility as parameters for reporting terrorism, by Dr Bisi Olawuyi, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Communication and Language Art, University of Ibadan; “The Role of the Media in Countering Terrorism” by Mr Akin Orimolade, Editor, National Star; and “Challenges of the Media in Reporting Terrorism”, by Mr. Alli Hakeem, former Editor-in-Chief, News Agency of Nigeria.
After thorough deliberations, the participants observed as follows:
- The Media have a crucial role to play in combating violent extremism and terrorism in the country, and their success in this task depends on how they carry out their reportage
- There are negative attitudes and prejudices, which undermine the objective reportage of terrorism in Nigeria. These include sensationalism and selective (prejudiced) reportage, among others.
- There are inherent challenges confronting the media in reporting terrorism in Nigeria. Some of these are threats to life, poor remuneration, lack of insurance for journalists and lack of modern equipment
- There are structural lapses, which prevent the professionalism of journalism in Nigeria
- The cornerstone of national interest is to protect the interest of the Nigerian state
- Ownership interference is one of the significant constraints faced by Nigerian journalists
- Social media have undermined the relevance of mainstream media in Nigeria.
- There is a problem with the minimum entry requirement into the profession.
At the end of the workshop, it was resolved as follows:
- The participants commended the Nigerian Press Council for organising the workshop and urged it to continuously engage Media Practitioners and other relevant stakeholders in knowledge-driven workshop/training on contemporary counter-terrorism
- It is imperative as a responsible Journalist to always cross-check the fact, present balanced, accurate and unbiased news reports devoid of sensationalism before disseminating same to the public
- Journalists, as a matter of importance, should strive to understand the theory of social responsibility, national interest and public interest while reporting terrorism
- Media professionals should be at the forefront of promoting peace in the country by publishing news reports and analyses that discourage violent extremism and terrorism but emphasise on peace and unity of the country
- There is a need to regulate the Social Media platform by the relevant stakeholders such as NPC, NGE, NUJ to protect the sanctity of National and public interest as against the idea of government’s regulation
- Relevant stakeholders (Government, NGO, CSO, Traditional Rulers, Media Practitioners etc.) should come up with a well-defined concept of National Interest that would serve as a guide for media practitioners
- Media organisations should have a style book that would serve as a guide for their employees towards ensuring that they operate in line with best practices
- Since media reports embolden terrorists, the media should reduce the attention given to terrorists and terrorist activities in their reportage. In other words, the media should not be reporting in a way that glorifies such acts in the eyes of the public but report their defeat
- The media should employ their professional skills in maintaining the delicate balance between the Public’s right to know and National interest to avoid causing disaffection among the Nigerian citizens
- Media organisations should not make themselves assets for terrorists by shifting from a drive for exclusive to prioritising public safety, National interest and responsible journalism
- The media should be cautious in publishing reports in order not to wittingly or unwittingly help extremists or terrorists to achieve their primary goal of spreading fear and sowing the seed of discord among the people or communities in the country
- There is the need for improved networking among media houses/professionals and the media with other stakeholders, particularly the security agencies, to tame escalating terrorism in the country
- Safety of Journalists covering terrorism or working in a violent prone area should be guaranteed and well equipped for the task
- NPC should also prevail on media ownership to always place National Interest above commercial or financial interest
- There is a need to expose journalists to adequate training on contemporary terrorism and its dynamics to enable them to report intelligently and the use of ICT to report terrorism, as well as general media literacy
- The media should begin to use its power to sensitise the public on terrorists’ attacks, security measures and how to react in case of terror attacks
- Concerned authorities should prevail on employers of Media Practitioners to ensure proper welfare packages, provision of adequate insurance policy, training and re-training and other incentives to prevent Journalists from temptation and compromise
- Government should engage in strategic communication, bottom-top approach to raise awareness, forge relationships with key constituencies, audience and correct misinformation in the public space
- The government, CSO, NGO and clerics must provide alternative-narrative to undercut violent extremist narrative by focusing on a positive story about social values, tolerance, openness, freedom and democracy
- It was resolved that solution to the challenges before Journalist covering terrorism, and violent extremism can be generated from within, and it would be counterproductive to borrow solutions to our problem from abroad
- The government should grant media houses import waivers and bailout funds to mitigate the effect of financial constraints in the industry and always interface with them to ascertain their challenges.
MR. FRANCIS N. NWOSU
Nigerian Press Council
COMRADE EMMA OGBECHE
Chairman, NUJ, FCT Council