By Lauratu Abdul Salam
THERE has been a growing recognition of the relevance of communication to conflict management and peace-building initiatives across the world. Dramatic improvement and sophistication in information and communication technology have engendered consciousness about the need to deploy communication for facilitating social cohesion, community resilience and peace-building initiatives.
On the other hand, the negative roles of some section of media and communication had played in exacerbating violent conflict and group mobilization were unmistakable. There were many instances in which journalists, government official, security managers and international development agencies fueled or exacerbated violence through inflammatory communication. The consequences and damages of news reports are hardly mitigated by the fact that the actors intended no harm.
To avert a ceaseless deepening of this rather unpleasant situation, the Department for International Development (DFID) funded an ingenious intervention, Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP) focused on initiative aimed at fostering the enhancement of capability of actors and institutions dedicated to the promotion of peace and security in Nigeria. Since its inception in 2012, NSRP has, following a thorough needs assessment, prioritized the focus on building the capacity of journalists. It went further to advance technical and facility support to media establishments, tertiary institutions as well as security agencies, relevant social media enthusiasts on conflict sensitive communication. The programme, deliberately emphasized reporting in order to mitigate risks of violence triggered by transmission and retransmission of dangerous speeches and insensitive messages which impact on human security and social cohesion.
Through its various interventions, NSRP has trained and facilitated the mentoring of journalists to increase the quality and conflict sensitivity of media reporting. This is to ensure that their professional performance match the demand and challenges of working in conflict zones. NSRP specifically supported the highlighting of potential conflict situations by engaging in dialogue with the communities where they exist. Equally important was the need to provide window of opportunities for women.
With the growing trend in conflict situation in Nigeria, NSRP realized that there is a strong need to prescribe the approach of conflict sensitive communication and gender sensitivity in the forthcoming Broadcasting Code which the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, is currently perfecting having solicited and taken submissions from stakeholders including those who converged on Kano at the Stakeholders Retreat in May 2017.
This, hopefully, would substantially help to stem the rampaging tides of conflict and hate speeches and other indecent expressions in the Nigerian broadcast media. There is also the need to be more gender sensitive in the Code because what we currently have mainly echoes the gap. To be exact, the NBC Code has done well to only reflect part of the observations in the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, BPFA, document in which the document focuses on 12 Critical Areas, one of them being the unfair media’s disposition to women. But what should the media, especially the broadcast media do to promote the cause of women?
What will the advancing of the cause of women do to the nation’s general well being? These and others should be the germane questions to be further addressed by the NBC as the nation’s compass for broadcasting activities. It is pertinent to recall that NSRP reckons strongly with the capacity of the media, especially the broadcast media, to impact on the Nigerian society. Indeed, this is to the extent that it has realized that the NBC Code needs to avail the nation’s broadcasting sector with a foundational premise. This is to enable broadcasters cultivate and sustain peaceful coexistence as desired by NBC and as particularly envisioned by the July 18, 2017 NBC Summit on “Content Development and Peaceful Co-existence (sic)”. NSRP believes that the inclusion of conflict and Gender Sensitivity in the new Code will help make the media a positive force against violent intolerance and promote diversity. It is also clear that gender sensitive broadcasting will readily accommodate and tolerate diversity which is indispensable to the sustenance of peaceful co-existence.
It is in this light that NSRP chose to emphatically focus on conflict-sensitive communication, more especially conflict sensitive reporting. This is in line with global best practices as duly endorsed by UNESCO and echoed the world over. Conflict-sensitive reporting is the trendy journalistic practice that mandates the media to reckon with the fact that they must consciously report and analyze conflicts with a view to helping to mitigate them.
Central to doing this by the broadcast media is the need to consciously avoid and discourage the use of dangerous speech. This brand of media practice equally preaches solution building, consensus building in conjunction with what it labels “good journalism” which enjoins strict adherence to professional ethics.
Incidentally, in Nigeria and Africa as a whole, the latitude for dangerous speech is a most extensive one according to a recent study in Ghana. The study clearly reckons that the use of hate speech to collectively describe hate speech is rather eurocentric. Rather, it concludes that hate speech constitutes only a strand of the rather roomy concept of indecent expressions comprising no fewer than 12 components or variants reflecting cultural diversity and their accompaniments hardly visible in the western cultures.
In the spirit of accommodating and tolerating diversity, NSRP has, in conjunction, with relevant stakeholders advocated and demonstrated multilateral collaboration between relevant stakeholders including the broadcasters, academics, culture enthusiasts, journalists as collectives and individuals as well as other non state actors like charities and foundations.
As NBC takes on the issue of content development and peaceful coexistence boldly henceforth, it is our candid wish that all stakeholders subscribe to the project and contribute their respective quota to make Nigeria a safer entity for generations.
On behalf of the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP), this is congratulating the chief host as well as the host of the “peaceful coexistence” initiative in person of the Honorable Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and Director General of NBC, Alhaji Modibbo Kawu, the entire staff of NBC, Media owners and managers as well as Media organizations.
- Abdulsalam is Media Manager for the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme, NSRP, of the DFID.