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Osinbajo to media: Hold us accountable through Investigative journalism

as BON, VON DGs, Maida, others harp on accurate reportage
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Michael Eboh, Levinus Nwabughiogu & Dirisu Yakubu
ABUJA-Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Monday in Abuja asked Nigerian media to adopt the instrumentality of investigative journalism to hold the government accountable to the people.

Osinbajo
Osinbajo

This came as the Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria, VON, Mr. Osita Okechukwu; his counter-part in the Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria, BON, Godfrey Ohuabunwa, Chairman, Daily Trust Foundation, Mallam Wada Maida; Mr. Femi Falana; Mr. Kole Shettima, Director (Africa) MacArthur Foundation; Mr, Mannir Dan-Ali, Chief Executive Officer, Daily Trust and Mr. Charles Odenigbo, Director General, Centre for Media Law and Development, among others tasked Journalists on the accuracy of their reportage.

Speaking at the Editorial Conference on Legal and Ethical Issues in Investigative Reporting in Nigeria, organized by the Daily Trust Foundation, the centre for Media Law and Development and the MacArthur Foundation in Abuja, Osinbajo who was represented by his Senior Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande said that the media by the virtue of its roles and functions was a veritable avenue to keep the government alive to its responsibility.

He said: “We are living in the interesting time. The free press has arrived at its best time. Everyone of us can have access to our own media. This is the age of social and fake news can spread like wild fire. The press can make government more accountable through investigative journalism”.

Osinbajo noted that with self regulation, media practitioners can check fake news and address the failings of news reporting.

He said, “We should be careful of over regulation of the media. Self-regulation is the best mode of regulating the media. If this is enough, we would have less or no government regulation.

“The media should set for itself an ethical benchmark, by appointing an ombudsman that would be paid by the media organisations and not by the government. This would help the media to hold itself accountable and ensure fair reporting. With self regulation, media practitioners can check fake news and address the failings of news reporting.”

Osinbajo lamented that the act of investigative journalism had been sacrificed on the altar of news reporting.

He noted that the resurgence of investigative journalism become more important with the spate of fake news during the last general elections.

According to him, the media no longer crosscheck claims and facts as presented by individuals, meaning investigative journalism have been relegated to the background.

He said, “Journalists should strive to abide by their code of ethics, unless, no investigative journalism in whatever form can thrive. However, investigative journalism should be careful not to go contrary to the laws of the land.”

He said Nigeria needed more investigative journalists who would speak truth to power without fear or favour and expose corruption and wrongdoings in government.
In his goodwill message, the DG, VON, Osita Okechukwu disclosed that the Freedom of Information, FoI, Act had emerged as a major legislation in the country since the advent of democracy and presented a veritable tools for media organisations to hold people in authority to accountability.

He said the media should beam their searchlight more on governance at the grassroots, as actions and decisions made at the local government and ward levels affect the lives of majority of Nigerians more than those at the centre.

He said, “The more we pay attention to what is happening at the local councils, as much as we do at the state and federal levels, the better it will be for us.”

He noted that democracy was growing in Nigeria, adding that the country had largely enjoyed press freedom.

Also speaking, Mr. Godfrey Ohuabunwa, Acting Chairman, Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria, BON, insisted that investigative journalism had become critical, especially with the proliferation of the social media and citizen journalism.

He added that the responsibility of the media, included not only telling the truth, but also serving as a check for those in power, noting that the media is the avenue where the citizens can check and request accountability for those in power.

He said: “It is unfair that journalists, reporters will be harassed for saying the truth. The media is the only avenue through which the common can express his views.

“This topic is very apt. Investigative journalism has become more important than before. The role of the media in nation building cannot be over emphasized. We don’t only tell the story but check those in power. We ask them to account for leadership. It is important that we go beyond getting news but doing investigation.

“Due to technology, almost everyone is now a broadcaster. Convergence of technology had made this possible. The challenge, however, is on regulation; how do we regulate citizen journalism, especially with the ills associated with the social media.

“Regulatory issue is a challenge. A woman just wakes up one morning and goes naked on social media. How do you check that? So, regulatory issue is something we should take seriously.”

Speaking in the same vein, Mallam Wada Maida, emphasized that journalists should be more concerned about their roles as entrenched in the Constitution, especially in the area of holding those in power accountable to the citizens.

According to him, this particular role of ensuring accountability of public officers was vital for the growth and development of the country.

He commended the MacArthur foundation and the Daily Trust Foundation for the training on investigation journalism, noting that this was a robust approach to entrench competency in journalism in Nigeria.

In his own submission, Mr. Kole Shettima, Director (Africa), MacArthur Foundation, said the organization was delighted to work with media organisations in Nigeria on the critical issues of investigative journalism, stating that the company see it as a core part of the work that it had set out to undertake.

He explained that further deepen investigative journalism in Nigeria, MacArthur Foundation was also sponsoring investigative journalism training in about eight other Nigerian languages, especially as most Nigerians cannot communicate in English, adding that this would also help promote Nigeria’s indigenous languages.

He said, “MacArthur is also keen on making newspaper organisations independent, mostly in the area of funding. It wants to support investigative journalism to ensure it is not commercialized.
We want to promote autonomy and funding for media organisations involved in investigative reporting, and we want to see how to support Nigeria’s news media to achieve autonomy and funding for these projects without compromising on ethics.”

In his presentation, Femi Falana said that Investigative journalism can be a risky pursuit.

He recalled that the founder of Newswatch Magazine, Dele Giwa and many other journalists in the military era lost their lives in the cause of doing their lawful jobs to better the society.

He however appreciated the return of democracy which he said had caged dictatorship in Nigeria.

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