Against the backdrop of the challenges bedevilling the media industry in Nigeria, governments and stakeholders have been urged to develop journalism in the country.
This charge forms part of recommendations arrived at during a National Media Virtual Roundtable themed “Between Survival and Existence: Media Objectivity in the Face of Dwindling Fortunes” organised by Action Aid Nigeria and Journalists Against Poverty in commemoration of the 2020 World Press Freedom Day.
The organisations said the event was organised after they observed several hazards faced by journalists ranging from attacks, threats, poor remuneration and freedom of expression.
Speakers include; Dapo Olorunyomi, Publisher, Premium Times Newspaper; Funke Egbemode, Osun State Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation/ immediate past President, Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE); ‘Sola Adebawo, Manager – Communications, Policy, Government & Public Affairs, Chevron Nigeria and Mid-Africa, and Country Director of ActionAid Nigeria, Ene Obi.
The meeting had in attendance 68 participants including journalists, media and public relations practitioners, communication executives and representatives of civil society organisations.
A communiqué issued at the end of the virtual event advocated for professionalism and growth in journalism practices as part of measures to help solve the incessant challenges facing journalists in Nigeria.
The communiqué reads: “The Nigerian media is yet to be totally free from attacks and clampdown by the ruling class and that Nigeria still ranks low on the table of countries with a conducive atmosphere for free press operation; the financial crisis that is rocking the Nigerian media has now been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, thus massive retrenchment is foreseen in the industry if there are no urgent deliberate interventions by stakeholders.
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“Digitalised operations are no longer an option for media owners and managers considering the current financial constraints, overhead costs and the increasing digital advertising; lack of innovation as a major threat to the Nigeria media existence.
“Besides, physical and operational innovation, a mental shift from the way journalism has been practised needs to occur to address current operational realities.
“Merger and acquisition will not be a lasting solution to survival, but financial and operational innovative strategies must be urgently developed; mass downsizing and job losses in the media industry may pose a security threat as unemployment is a key driver of insecurity. Hence the Nigerian media might need to consider an urgent bailout structure that will not compromise its independence bearing in mind a large number of Nigerians employed by the industry.
“The public and private sector need to see investment in the media as an investment in the nation and its people, not a favour to the practitioners. Despite its watchdog role, the media has been ignored to fizzle out, and this is most glaring in the face of the current pandemic; responsible journalism must be encouraged to fulfil its mandate as enshrined in Section 22 of Nigeria’s Constitution.
“The public interest must be defined by the media to align with the constitutional provision which states that; the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people.”
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The communiqué also recommended that both government and stakeholders should intensify efforts in creating a realistic growth within the media system thereby creating a framework for objectivity, digitalisation and bailout.
“That government at all levels must come to terms with the reality of the media’s importance to the growth of democratic tenets, and that attacks on the media should be halted if the nation desires to come out of its woods.
“Stakeholders and government need to jointly develop a legal framework to guide and effect bailout in the media industry without prejudice as applied to the banking, telecommunications and aviation industry and without recourse to politicking its intervention and abuse of power or as a means of control.
“Media owners, managers and practitioners should recognise that digitalisation has come to stay for good, thus evolve, be more creative, innovative and technology-driven in order to survive.
“The media and CSOs should better coordinate as allies to attain the mutual objective that puts the interest of Nigerians at the centre. CSOs to support media’s full transition to digitalisation by building the capacity of journalists and bring back activism as in the days of old where public interest based on truths and selflessness determined media contents.”