COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF THE MEDIA INTERACTION-TRAINING ON DIVERSITY REPORTING ORGANISED BY THE JOURNALISTS FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS, (JODER), THE INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION, (IIE) AND THE FORD FOUNDATION, WEST AFRICA REGION HELD AT M SQARE HOTEL, LAGOS ON AUGUST 23, 2017
Participants at the Training for Nigerian Print and Electronic Media on Reporting Conflict and Diversity in A Plural Society, were drawn from the print and electronic media, professional media organisations, Civil Society,Nigerian Union of Journalists, the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, (NBC) and other media-driven organisations across the country.
Participants observe that the media has a very important role to play in the transformation of any given society. The media as the Fourth Estate of the Realm has a very significant role to play in nation building and sustainable development. The Nigerian media has played this critical role since 1859 when the first newspaper was published in the country in the local language of the indigenous people.
Throughout the history of Nigeria, since the pre-colonial, indigenous peoples had employed mass communication as a veritable tool in building the gap between the people and their leaders. The media, from the primordial times, either traditional or modern media performed profound functions in shaping the destiny of the country.
That in Nigeria, the media for instance played a very significant role in the campaign for independence against colonial rule and was also in the forefront in the campaign against despotic military rulers that seized the country for 27 odd years.
- That since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999, democracy has brought changes and greater access of the ordinary man to power. Nigeria has also seen the mushrooming of several media organisations and a blossoming private investment in electronic media never before seen.
- That why democracy has brought improved human rights conditions, skybound economic and other social opportunities,the gains are dimmed by the challenge of weak institutions complicated by the hydra-headed problem of corruption and bad leadership.
- That in spite of the advancement recorded owing to democratic reforms, the challenges of good governance and participatory democracy remain. Poverty and corruption stand out as major obstacles to development while national inspirational leadership continues to elude the country.
- Though the national elections of 2015 brought in a new set of political interests, expectations are far from being met. The country remains divided along ethnic and religious fault lines. Terrorism plagues the country. In recent months, Nigeria has become a killing field orchestrated either through violent extremism or social crimes perpetrated against the people in the society they are bound to live.
- Worst still, the past few months have seen resurgence of hate speeches, deepening mutual distrust in the face of not-so-promising responses from authorities to meet the anxious expectations of a despairing population.
- That since 2009, when violent extremists launched offensive against the state, now fewer than 8000 people have been killed. More than 85 children have been employed as suicide bombers by extremist groups in the North East area of the country, more than 1 million people have been displaced from their homes, why the number of Internally Displaced Persons, (IDP) has entered seven digits.
- In the face of this, poor policies, corruption and ineptitude hunt Africa’s most populous country leading to millions of jobless, desperate and hopeless youth population. The country is also bedeviled by the proliferation of illicit weapons which threaten regional security.
- That one important way of responding to the challenge is for the media to strengthen the culture of public debate, deepen dialogue and discussions and provide greater spaces for the complex shades of opinions to air their views, to express their fears, aspirations and expectations.In this mismatch of a complex hurdle, the media has a very important role to play in reverting the country’s floundering fortunes.
- Diversity reporting is an important aspect of strategic intervention that will ensure the divergent interests have equitable access to the media, that the media also provide the necessary spaces considering the plural nature of the Nigerian society with over 250 ethnic groups and home to a rainbow cultures and values.That the Media and Diversity Project will go a long way in assisting the media in terms of acquisition of modern techniques in reporting diversity, help address the fears of marginalized groups and better place the media in a strategic location to be able to promote greater public participation in governance and enhance greater government obligations to the public. After the extensive training, interactions, debate and sharing of experiences, the participants make the following resolutions.
- Participants benefited immensely from the project which was timely in the context of the socio-political developments in Nigeria especially the renewed threat to the unity of the country considering its implications for regional and global security. Participants admit that the importance of diversity reporting as a key element in effective media engagement of the various interests in Nigeria for sustainable livelihood of the people.
- Participants listed major areas of diversity in Nigeria to include language, culture, religion, corruption, indigenous issues, ethnic minorities, environmental changes, poverty, exclusion, language, culture and the political economy.
- That participants will double their responsibilities so as to preserve the principles of democracy by promoting equitable access to media by vulnerable groups like women, the poor, the physically challenged and other less endowed social formations and communities.
- Participants agree to create an effective platform to promote discussions and interaction on issues of diversity reporting in the Nigerian print and electronic media.
- Participants agree to work together to engage the National Assembly and other democratic institutions in the country in order to ensure the rights of journalists and Nigerians to free speech are not impugned or destroyed by any legislation that may tend to undermine democracy.
- Participating journalists agree to give greater spaces to marginalised peoples like ethnic minorities and to promote their culture, their values, their heritage as a practical way to deepen democratic culture and promote diversity reporting in Nigeria.
- Participants recognise the renewed upsurge in ethnic self-determination across the country and urge the government and all other stakeholders to employ peaceful means in addressing the challenges instead of employing violence or extreme measures outside the constitutional provisions in the country. Participants resolve to set a national agenda for dialogue and peaceful resolution of contending issues in the country.
- Participants observe that poverty, corruption, social and economic exclusion are clear dangers to democracy and that journalists must take active parts in promoting the campaign against corruption as part of social responsibility in diversity reporting for the greater good of the society.
- Journalists regret the lack of capacity building for media practitioners especially in the context of diversity reporting, the decline in training in the newsrooms and the decreasing in the quality of news content arising from lack of diversity reporting which continue to promote narrow prisms in the media to the detriment of the greater society.
- Participants urge media owners to invest more in human capital development as this is necessary to assist journalists to discharge their duties more effectively in diversity reporting.
- Participants view with great concern the inadequate payment of salary by media organisations adding that the trend has become so worrisome to the extent that many media organisations owe up to 10 to 12 months of salary in arreas.Participants note that this development has the potential of reducing the quality of media practice as the industry faces brain drain owing to the increasing poor conditions of service in many of the media institutions.
- Participants express profound appreciation to the International Institute for Education, (IIE), the Ford Foundation, West Africa Region and the Journalists for Democratic Rights, (JODER) for the opportunity given to journalists for the training.
AUGUST 23, 2017