By Kingsley Okoye
Lokoja, Oct. 3, 2020 Sen. Ajibola Basiru (APC-Osun), Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, has called for value re-orientation on essence of journalism practice in Nigeria, as enshrined in 1999 constitution, as amended.
Basiru made the suggestion on Saturday while delivering a paper at the 2020 Senate Press Corps Retreat in Lokoja, Kogi State.
Naija247news reports that the retreat, organised by the Senate Press Corps for no fewer than 80 newsmen had “Democracy in a Federation: Roles of Media, States and Parliaments” as theme.
Basiru, who presented a paper on “Governance: How watchful are the watchdogs in ensuring Accountability and Transparency in Nigeria”, decried the sinking nature of the media in Nigeria.
“The ship of the media has been sinking very fast and something drastic has to be done before it totally capsizes.
“There is need for this retreat to further address itself on a re-thinking on how the press can perform their role as fourth estate of the realm.
“From my own limited scope, not being a trained expert in this field, I will offer some suggestions.
“This is based on my personal experience and observation in public service that can be helpful in making the media deliver on their watchdog role of ensuring accountability and transparency in government.
“There is the need to rediscover the values that make the profession to be qualified as fourth estate of the realm as stipulated in section 22 of the 1999 constitution, which upholds responsibility and accountability of the government of the people.
“It creates an obligation for the press to uphold equitable principles, that ensure education, economic justice and gender conducive policies.”
He said the media were also expected to uphold national ethics as contained in section 23 of the 1999 constitution.
He listed the ethics to include discipline, integrity, diginity of labour, social justice, religious tolerance, self reliance and patriotism.
Basiru said there must be a reversal of the dangerous trend of making the media mere commercial ventures, noting that the media had a constitutional role to the society beyond commercial motives.
He also adocated training and knowledge acquisition of media professionals to deliver on their constitional mandate.
“Other observed needs for the contemporary press are training and capacity development.
“Journalists need to be traineed in the area of governance, administrative procedures, legislative processes, exercise of oversight functions, public finance, management and laws.
“These knowledge are very essential in performing the watchdog functions.”
He said that the right questions and correct conclusion could not be asked and drawn on the aforementioned areas by media professionals without requisite knowledge and understanding of the areas.
“The need for training and capacity development cannot be overemphasized if the press must be an effective watchdog,” Basiru said .
He advised the media to cultivate the habit of acquiring personal and professional knowledge as the profession required training and capacity development to expose the inefficiency in the system of governance.
He also urged the media to focus on substance on news reporting instead of sensentionalism, especially on headlines.
This, he said, was the only way to function accordingly as the watchdog of the society.
According to him, sensationalism erodes the integrity and credibility of the media by creating doubts on the quest by the press to ensure accountability in government.
He said it was time the media rededicated their activities to proper investigative journalism with necessary thoroughness that focused on substance of findings in relation to how inefficiency, waste, corruption, among others could be exposed.
The Senator, who holds a PhD in law, said there was need to ensure professionalism, as many people in the press were not professionals on the profession of journalism.
He also said there was also a need to review the current code of ethics of the profession to ensure accomplishments of the watchdog role of the press.
In his remark, the Clark to National Assembly, Mr Amos Olatunde, said there was need for proper reporting of the activities of the National Assembly.
He urged the Senate Press Corps to continue to partner the National Assembly to further promote democratic practice in the country.
He, however, urged the media to continue to ensure that principles of objectivity, fairness and balance were reflected in the reportage of activites of National Assembly.
Earlier, the Chairman, Senate Press Corps, Mr James Itodo, in his remarks, said there was need for a dissection of the country, particularly on required symbiotic relationship between democracy and development as obtained in developed nations.
Itodo said the topics lined up for presentation by resource persons at the retreat would provoke discussions on how to further reposition Nigeria and accelerate the journey to nationhood.