BY LAJU ARENYEKA
LAGOS—THE role of the media in the ongoing national conference triggered in-depth discourse yesterday at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, NIJ, in Lagos, as practitioners debated on whether the media should act as participant or observer in the confab.
Speaking at the 4th Convocation lecture of the NIJ, titled: “The media and national conference debate: Observer or participant”, veteran journalist and publisher of Vanguard newspapers, Mr. Sam Amuka, argued that the media’s role in the conference is both that of participant and observer.
Amuka, who represented the chairman of the institute’s governing council, Mallam Ismaila Isa, said: “We are participants because we have representatives at the conference from the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, and Nigeria Association of Women Journalists, NAWOJ. We are also observers because we must relay the happenings there to the Nigerian people.
It seems to me that part of our job is agenda setting, and after the horrendous deaths of some young people during the National Immigration Service recruitment exercise last weekend, it is quite obvious that the national conference must focus on providing ways to get Nigerians to work. It is government’s responsibility to look to the security and the well-being of the people.”
Mr. John Momoh, the Chief Executive Officer, Channels Television, who was the guest lecturer, however opined that for the media to be unbiased in its reportage of the conference, it must restrict itself to the role of observer.
Represented by the company secretary, Mrs. Abiola Olumeyan, Momoh said: “The role of the media in the national conference is more of an observer, having power to shape public opinion, than that of the participant, otherwise the media would not remain objective and be forced to choose sides. I, therefore, believe that the role of the media during the national conference is to set the agenda of this national conference by providing Nigerians a platform to make their voices heard on issues of national importance; forge unifying elements that are held in common by all Nigerians in the conference and increase overall awareness of Nigerians on germane issues to be deliberated at the conference; the media should also enhance the general knowledge by providing the public with information, thoughts and thinking of the different delegates to the national conference. News broadcast through different media will also assist Nigerians to know about the day-to-day agenda and issues in the conference.”
Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye, who represented the Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos at the event, urged the graduating students and media practitioners present to adhere strictly to the code of ethics of the profession.
“It is the media’s responsibility to monitor the republic and make our leaders accountable to the people at all times. We must stay true to our responsibility as the fourth estate of the realm so that we do not become the fourth estate of the wreck.”
Akinfeleye added that “agenda setting is no longer the prerequisite of the media alone, as the audience has also become active.”
The lecture was attended by other eminent personalities such as the Provost of NIJ, Dr. Mrs. Elizabeth Ikem, the Director General, Voice of Nigeria, Alh. Abubakar Jijiwa, represented by the Director of Programmes, Mr. Yusuf Ajibola, among others.