‘Historically, Africas image in the world has been largely managed by non-African interests and institutions. Those who had the means to create powerful channels to disseminate information widely, had pre-empted the definition of what was good, what was right, what was important, and what was civilized. Alfred Opubor
Journalism is one of the most interesting professions. Aside the glamour and camaraderie, there are, on the other hand huge challenges confronting the professions and its practitioners; and this is not restricted to the developing world. The importance of the media, nay journalism, to human existence is aptly summarized by an American Emeritus Professor of Journalism, Curtis D. MacDouglas who has rightly asserted that: People cannot govern themselves without information. It is indispensable in a democracy. No matter what changes, – social, economic, political or other- occur in future, it is inconceivable that there ever will come a time where there will not be those whose full-time function it is to find out what is going on and to transmit that information to others, together with a proper explanation of its significance.
It should, therefore, be naturally expected that the occupational hazards and risks associated with the practice of the profession would be enormous, as contained in the The Media Rights Watch, in its annual publication is enormous. The role of the media is the same all over the world, irrespective of creed, colour, race and the level of development. Recognized universally as the Fourth Estate of the Realm – the unofficial fourth arm of the government. The media’s most important task is that of functioning as the watchdog of the society. The role provides a mechanism that ensures that the media keeps a constant surveillance on the society in an attempt to ensure that people follow the acceptable norms, values and procedures which are right in the eyes of the right-thinking members of the society. As the Fourth Estate of the Realm (the unofficial fourth arm of government) the press if open to hostilities as watchdogs. Even Emperor Napoleon recognized this very crucial role and designated the press as the Fifth Great Power.
THE PRESS IN NIGERIA
From the press of nationalism since the publication of the first newspaper, Iwe-Irohin Yoruba, in Abeokuta in 1859 by Revd. Henry Townsend, an English missionary, the Nigerian press have moved on over the years to perform their roles as vibrant tool for development, particularly checking the excesses of government. The advent of the Lagos Times’ in 1880, paved the way for a militant and nationalistic press in the context of Nigerian nationalists, that were struggling for independence from the British colonialists. Soon, The West African Pilot, Lagos Weekly Record, The Comet and Nigerian Tribune appeared on the scene to back the early nationalists in the struggle for political freedom and influenced largely, the accelerated the arrival of independence by encouraging mass political participation, spreading nationalist ideas and attitudes, rallying, and educating the public. Early practitioners were harassed through interference from the colonial administrators; but were undaunted. The independent government that came into force in 1960, didnt remove the colonial legislation that attempted to control the press; but it also passed a legislation that increased the stranglehold that was already on the press; for example, The Official Secrets Act of 1962. (Mass Media, People and Politics in Nigeria).
The military came into power in January 1966 to meet a still vibrant press build by the early nationalists, whose vivacious performance continues to be sustained by succeeding generations of media managers. Part of the social responsibility of the press is its role of assisting the nation to pay greater attention to the needs of the people, and also promote national interests as obtains in foreign media. It is important to state that this initiative has, in the final analysis benefit collectively, a plural society. The commendable role of the Nigerian press, as part of the opposition pressure groups during the military era is concisely captured by The Media Rights Watch’, in its year 2005 Report. It declared that: The Nigerian media is forthright and is waxing strong; The privately-owned press is robust, pluralist, and populist. It does not mince words about the powerful. Its outspokenness won through years of guerrilla journalism secret meetings and under the-counter distribution is general. It is imperative to highlight the fact that many Nigerians are gullible as a result of the low literacy level and issues pertaining to values customs and norms.
The foregoing is further supported by President Olusegun Obasanjo, who made an allusion to the relative freedom enjoyed by the Nigerian media. Speaking at the Leon Sullivan Summit dinner in the United States on 20th June, 2006, Obasanjo pointed out that: Our press is as free as any press on the planet. Our media also share the same unsavoury tendencies as the rest of the world media. For instance, our media make a capital of our tragedies and problems and parade our weaknesses before the world, as extravagantly as possible. So, it is easy for those who don’t know us to be the victims of Afro-pessimism. We must realize that we can never be perfect and that it will take some time before our region of the world moves away from the back row in the comity of nation. Our media should therefore allow some measure of patriotism to come into play while presenting the country to the outside world. Accordingly, the Nigerian media, and indeed, others in the developing world need to brace up to the challenges posed by modernization. It goes without saying that the media, of which Information and Communications Technology is now part, is up to the task of contributing to efforts at promoting good governance, that has come to be acknowledged globally as the main ingredient of development.
FOCUS VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS & RELATED CONDUCTS
The responsibilities of the press in fostering understanding and promoting development cannot be overemphasized. As the IPI commences its conference in Abuja today, one of the principal issues that will most probable come under focus is Human Rights Violation and press freedom. Governments, over the years have come to recognize the power of information. The Media Rights Watch focusses on what it considers outrageous and inauspicious conducts in all parts of the world with intent to checking excesses as encouraged by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Human Rights Watch exposes human rights abuses like torture, violence against women, and child exploitation. In order to maintain its independence, the body does not accept money from any government, but relies solely on the generosity of people to defend human rights violations that are not restricted to the Third World. The press, through its Media Rights Watch seeks to expose the actions of those in power, apply global pressure to end human rights violations, and investigates abuses and make detailed recommendations to governments, international institutions, corporations, and policymakers that translate into concrete change in peoples lives.
One other issue deserving the attention of the International Press Institute is the imbalance in global flow of information. It has been held that the pattern of flow of information in the world is akin to that of the flow of goods from the industrialized world to the developing nations. Foreign media export the raw materials from the developing world only to feed the developing world with information that they deem fit; every so often, conflict and catastrophe news. Reduced to fundamentals, the information people consume is a product of the communicators’ bias. This situation calls for redress; at this point in history when the whole world is faced with growing demands for information consumption these days of globalization, regionalization, and the re-structuring of various economies; in addition to the challenges of charitable intervention. There is no reason why the developed world should not know as much as the developing nations know about them in order to foster peace and international understanding.
In terms of professionalism and ethics. People today, are still concerned about the ability of communicators to influence the behaviour of their fellow human beings. This is more pronounced with the massive infiltration of the airwaves of the developing nations by foreign media stations. Several schools of thought have advanced the argument that the media arrogate unto themselves the right to shape our images of the world. They tend to affect the way people perceive issues and events while also impacting on the selective perception and retention of the average reader, viewer or listener. The influence of the press is enormous. Society has consistently recognized the enormous potential of mass dissemination of information. The ancient Greek, in fact, expressed the view that the communicator should have thorough knowledge of the subject and the mind of the audience. (Curtis & MacDouglas (1979)
Nigerian press apparently now realize the importance of furthering the objective of guaranteeing peace, political stability, economic prosperity, and sustainable development and have worked in concert with other foreign powers and international organizations. It is not quite ascertainable the level of media effect on the outside world in the task of educating foreign nations the predicaments of the nation and efforts being made to develop. Given this development, it has been established that media practitioners should ideally be more knowledgeable than the public they are trying to inform. Information management, processing and dissemination are therefore highly sensitive tasks, which must not be left in the hands of feeble minds. In essence, this stresses the importance of training and re-training of media practitioners for effective performance. Another factor has to do with the welfare of employees. How many media organizations pay their workers regularly? How do you check malpractices and ethical misdemeanour when your workers are not paid?
THE AGE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
In the past few decades, remarkable achievements have been recorded in the field of Information and Communications Technology. The advancements are such that the communications revolution in Nigeria could be described as mind-boggling. The age of the computer and the Internet is contributing phenomenally to the process of change and development. More importantly, governance is greatly being aided through the provision of avenues for easier communication within the establishment, and mass-communication with the masses of the governed. The private sector, the engine for growth is also being actively propelled to achieving higher standards of performance and conduct through modern established corporate governance process.
We live in a world of pervasive extreme poverty whose economic lop-sidedness could be politically dangerous. We equally live in a world when the literacy level is dangerously low in some regions. Also, very disturbing is the fact that the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen. The media have an enormous task up their sleeves, in propagating ideals which could mitigate or correct these abnormalities. The emerging new order certainly calls for great tact and diplomacy in the handling of issues and events, which seem to divide rather than unite humanity. What follows therefore is for the media to perform its functions in a manner that would afford assurance that all the peoples of the world live out their lives in freedom and also continue to work towards creating an atmosphere for the peoples of the world to freely pursue their economic, social, political and cultural development.
THE NEW WORLD INFORMATION ORDER
IP should also be deeply interested in promoting the objectives of the New World Information & Communication Order (NWICO) based on some very salient factors that have the potency of promoting the flow of information between the developed and developing nations. These, according to reports include the democratisation of information flow from north to south and vice versa; decolonisation for self-determination, national independence and cultural identity; de-monopolisation, which involves limiting the extent of activities of transnational communication companies; and development, which entails suitable national communication policy, adequate infrastructure, journalism education, and regional cooperation. (Carlsson;2005). Unfortunately, powerful nations of the world in 1989, succeeded removing NWICO from the Agenda of UNESCO. According to Carlsson, the powerful interests substituted the agenda of balancing information flow with introducing a scheme called The International Programme for the Development of Communication, IPDC, on UNESCOs platform, thereby, once again, diverting the issue to the age-old aid-donor relations, and paving the way for deregulation, commercialization, consumerism and eventually globalisation
Delivering a paper titled Broadcasting, Peace and Human Development” at the Tenth Anniversary Lecture of African Independent Television, Abuja, Nigeria, 2006, a prominent Nigerian strategic communicator, late Prof. Alfred Opubor stated that his primary interest and professional passion was the search for alternative communication systems and the building of appropriate institutions to enable Africans to explain and proclaim itself to Africa and the rest of the world. Opubor argued that Africa has been the victim of other peoples information domination. Historically, Africas image in the world has been largely managed by non-African interests and institutions. Those who had the means to create powerful channels to disseminate information widely, had pre-empted the definition of what was good, what was right, what was important, and what was civilized. In general, even the achievements in science, in art and culture that were African in origin or inspiration, were often attributed to others, because their provenance was obscured in Africas inability to proclaim its stake. Through literature, visual arts, the mass media, and popular culture, the agenda of world discourse has been hijacked by other cultures and peoples for a long time.’ Opubor advocated for a Pan-African Radio and Television Channel or Network, which he believed is a major contribution to the emergence of the new Africa brand image. Its mandate will be, among other things, to:
enhance knowledge about Africa, within and outside the continent
define and promote African points of view on development
project Africas cultural legacies and success stories
provide pan-African platforms for debate and cultural exchange
support and accelerate African integration and solidarity
promote an authentic and credible African voice on continental and international agendas.
The 67th IPI World Congress that commences in Abuja, Nigeria Thursday June 21, 2018, is a good opportunity to showcase our immense potentials and shake of the negative impressions that the West consistently forge about the Third World in the spirit of Why Good Journalism Matters that is the theme of the congress. It is to be noted with satisfaction that pressmen here have never been timid of voicing their views on matters of great importance to the survival of the society. Honesty, integrity, courage, industry and hard-work are some of the virtues that make media practitioners excel. As one of the strongest and most powerful institutions, the media must avoid and resist temptations from all quarters or other forms of largesse or enticement, that could make them deviate from the noble objective of practicing their profession with their heads raised above their shoulders. We have highly proficient media practitioners in Nigeria that are equally good as their counterparts in the advanced world. However, multifarious problems confronting the media, especially in the developing world include the inability of the media to be self-sustaining with the attendant consequence of irregular salaries and wages. A radically new approach is, therefore, suggested to combat the problem of negative and catastrophe news about Africa as if nothing good happens in the continent. This is evidently one of the reasons ‘WHY GOOD JOURNALISM MATTERS’. Given the demands of the free and dynamic world in which the professional operates, the global media must brace up to face the challenges of these trying times.
If media practitioners carry along with them integrity, which has inestimable value, they would reap the fruits while they are in the system, and more importantly, gain recognition after vacating active media practice like the doyens, Lateef Jakandes, Babatunde Alobas, MCK Ajuluchukwus Babatunde Joses, Laban Nammes, their immediate successors including the Three Musketeers Segun Osobas, Felix Adenaikes and Peter Ajayis; those brilliant news magazine editors that I humorously label (NADECO PROFESSIONALS) who battled the military to a standstill. And of course, frontline journalism trainers like Alfred Opubors, Onuorah Nwunelis; Frank Ugboajas; who handed over to the Idowu Sobowales; Olatunji Dares; the Ralph Akinfeleyes whose products have continued to carry the banner aloft. Welcome to Nigeria; Pen Warriors. Happy stay in Nigeria, IPI Delegates. Let us advance UNESCOs interest in evolving a New World Information Communication Order that is based on the consideration of the concept of the Third World to promote the principles of justice, equity and development, through global communications.