The Chairman of Channels Television, Mr John Momoh, on Tuesday said that the role of the media at the ongoing National Conference Debate was more of an observer.
According to him, the media has the power to shape public opinion.
Momoh made the remark while delivering the 4th Convocation Lecture of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), in Lagos.
The topic of the lecture is: “The Media and the National Conference Debate: Observer or Participant”.
The chairman, who was represented by the Company Secretary, Mrs Adeola Olumayan, said the media would not remain objective and may be forced to take sides, if it were to be a participant.
He said that the national conference was the hope of several Nigerians for a truly lasting solution to the myriad of problems that had plagued the country.
“It is my stance and unshaken determination to uphold the ideals of balanced reporting, to remain objective and fair in the coverage of the epoch making event.
“The media should also guarantee every side the platform to air its views.
“I strongly urge our young graduates to take up the pen whether in print, radio or television or even digitally, to remember that your words today will shape the decisions of tomorrow.
“When tomorrow fades into yesterday, and becomes history, you should be able to ask your selves if you have been part of Nigeria’s glorious history or regret-filled past,” he said.
Momoh said that the media sometimes acted as a public representative by holding officials accountable, on behalf of the people.
He, then urged the media to strive to set the agenda at the ongoing national conference by providing Nigerians a platform to make their voices heard on issues of national importance.
According to him, the media plays a common-carrier role by providing a line of communication between the government and the people.
“The people learn about what the government is doing and governments also learn from the media, what the public is thinking.‘’
He also said that it was the role of the media to forge the unifying elements that were held in common by Nigerians in the conference.
The media should also increase the overall awareness of the citizenry on the germane issues to be deliberated at the conference, he said.
According to him, news broadcast through various media will also assist Nigerians to know about the day-to-day agenda and issues at the conference.
Momoh said it would also provide them with a platform to give updates about their parts of the city.
He said that through the media, the people would also be able to exchange their views over different issues being faced in the society and share their thoughts on a larger scale.
Momoh said the national conference could not have come at a better time as it was being convened during a democracy and after the coming into force of the Federal Information Act.
According to him, Nigerians now freely speak their minds and participate through various media, more openly and actively on how they are governed.
“The balance of power is gradually tilting more in favour of the man in the street, than those who walk in the corridors of power,’’ he said.
Momoh cited instances of the 2012 fuel subsidy protests where government was forced to reduce the pump prize and the public outcry on the state of Police Colleges in the country.
Earlier, the Provost of the Institution, Dr Elizabeth Ikem, said that the institution was concerned about the mandate of bringing about a transformation in the quality of graduates being turned out.
Ikem said that in an effort to produce graduates fit for the purpose, the institution had been equipping and preparing students for the challenges and expectations of the industry and the people.
“We have designed a professional forum where experts are invited to share their experience, knowledge, challenges and expertise with our students on topical issues germane to their overall development on regular basis,” she said.
In a remark, Mr Sam Amuka, Publisher, Vanguard Newspaper, called on representatives at the national conference to focus primarily on how to provide jobs for Nigerians.
Amuka, who represented the Chairman of the NIJ Governing Council, Malam Ismaila Isa, decried the recent incident at the Abuja National Stadium where some unemployed youths seeking to secure jobs died in the process.
“As observers, we must set agenda and part of our job is to focus on job creation. The role of every government should be that of security of lives and property.
“It is appalling to see our youth in their desperation to secure jobs die the way they did.
“I am happy that we in the media industry are well represented at the national conference; so we should seize the opportunity to highlight some of these challenges,” he said.
Also speaking, Prof. Achike Okafor, representing the Head, Mass Communication Department, Caleb University, emphasised the need for media practitioners to do more in the area of investigative journalism.
“We should indeed be seen to bring about the change that the citizens are looking for. We ought to be more investigative and interpretative and show courage in our duties.
“Many graduates of Mass Communication today tend to tilt more towards Public Relations and Advertising, for fear of taking risks,” he added.