Speech delivered by President of the Senate (Dr.) Abubakar Bukola Saraki, CON, at the IPI World Congress dinner held In Abuja On June 23, 2018.
1. It is a special honour to host the international press at the IPI World Congress Dinner here in Abuja. We are very pleased that the world’s best journalists, editors and media executives have converged in Nigeria to explore the theme – ‘Why Good Journalism Matters: Quality Media For Strong Societies’.
2. No doubt, from the engaging sessions and enriching discussions over the last couple of days, many strategies have been formulated that will take the practice of journalism to new heights around the world.
3. I congratulate the International Press Institute (IPI) and the Nigerian Hosting Committee (NHC) headed by Prince Nduka Obaigbena on the successful hosting of this World Congress and General Assembly. When the IPI Director, Ms. Barbara Traofi, called at my office along with a delegation including the Nigerian Hosting Committee back in February, I was most enthusiastic in signaling my support for the Congress holding in our country.
4. We welcome this visit of the IPI to Nigeria and we call for more regular visits, and indeed annual congresses, in this part of the world. This, I believe, will make for better understanding of Nigerians and Africans in the eyes of the international media. When international journalists themselves come in our midst and get the right position about Africa, the image of our continent will start to improve in the eyes of the world out there.
5. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the World’s Press, you will agree with me that negative stereotypes of the so-called ‘dark continent’ have been bandied about for too long. This has had an unfortunate effect on the development of Africa, as well as the sense of pride and dignity of young Africans down the ages.
6. And we do know that these negative notions of Africa are largely misconceptions. In those cases where there may have been some truth in them, what we also know is that culture is not static. Some things that may have been true of Nigeria in the 1930s are no longer the case in the Nigeria of today. We can say much the same about America in many respects, or indeed of anyplace else. Culture is dynamic and refreshes itself; it evolves. It would therefore be appropriate for the larger world’s view of Africa to move apace, in line with the changing times. The media is key to achieving this.
7. How we begin to redress the balance, goes to the heart of responsible journalism itself. It starts with quality, accurate and objective reporting – the hallmarks of good journalism. Objectivity and impartiality, those time-honoured principles of responsible journalism, cannot be over-emphasised.
8. As Nigeria heads into the 2019 election year, we plead with the press – national and international – to maintain objectivity at all times in their reporting. I say this because there can be no democracy without credible elections. If we get the election right, then we have a better chance of making a stronger society.
9. We are living in times that call on the press to strive, more than ever, to defend freedoms. Events all over the world attest to the urgency of this. The media must be a defender of values; it must stand for rights, for openness – for the remaking of a world where the powerful will not oppress the weak.
10. In the era of Fake News, especially with the fragmentation of the social contract as we are witnessing all over the world today, it is clear to me that the media cannot afford to be complacent. The media cannot allow itself to be complicit. When false claims are made, which could heat up the polity – or set different groups off against one another – it behoves the media to expose these by countering with verifiable facts.
11. I recognise that the media is facing its own challenges, due in part to the internet and the rise of social media. So also, are the modes of relaying the news to an audience whose preference for receiving mass communication is also changing with each passing day. The media must adapt for this rapidly changing environment, in order that the journalist may fulfil his or her role, in the Lincolnian tradition, as a defender of democracy.
12. Now, more than ever, the media must be proactive in defending the people’s right to know. In spite of the obstacles, the press must press on, because it is its responsibility to help society know itself better. The press must press on.
13. The media is a galvanising artery that holds our world together, a collective mirror to global conscience. We salute you, and thank you for your steadfastness and courage, despite the privations suffered in the journalist’s pursuit of the people’s right to know.
14. In closing, let me assure you of the continued support of the Senate, and indeed the entire 8th National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to ensuring a free and vibrant press capable of playing its part in strengthening democratic norms.
15. We stand committed to upholding press freedom, and to come to the aid of journalists whenever the need arises. Our doors are open and will remain open to ideas, strategies and policies for improving the practice of journalism in Nigeria – and the condition of the journalists themselves – in line with global standards.
16. I congratulate everyone here on your participation. It is my hope that you have had a rewarding time in our country. This dinner tonight is the last hurrah of the 67th IPI World Congress, but it is only the beginning of our working together for a better world. I wish you safe return to your duty posts.
Have a wonderful evening.