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Journalists, media educators must understand digital media to promote media literacy, civic engagement — ACCE President

The African Council for Communication Education (ACCE) will hold the 21st edition of its annual International Conference with the theme “Digital Media, Civic Engagement and Global Platforms” from October 22 to 25, 2019. In this interview, President of the Council, Prof. Nnamdi Tobechukwu Ekeanyanwu speaks on plans to use this year’s conference to advance national development and achievements of the Council since he took office in 2017. Excerpts:

digital media, ACCE
Ekeanyanwu

Tell us about yourself and what you do

My name is Prof. Nnamdi Tobechukwu Ekeanyanwu, a professor of International and Strategic Communications, University of Uyo, Nigeria and the current National President of the African Council for Communication Education (ACCE). ACCE is the umbrella body of Media scholars and academics in Africa and the Diaspora formed to advance issues of Communication education, pedagogy and scholarship. It holds an Annual International Conference every year to focus on national or/and international issues of importance in an effort to see what role Communication or the media industry would advance such issues and encourage development. This year 2019 is the 21st edition and is hosted by the Department of Mass Communication, National Open University of Nigeria, Abuja from October 22 to 25, 2019. The theme for this year’s conference is “Digital Media, Civic Engagement and Global Platforms”. The Keynote and Lead Speaker is Professor Bruce Mutsvairo of Auburn University in the United States of America.

How do you plan to use this year’s conference to advance national development?

The theme of this year’s conference is very apt in the light of recent developments globally. Research shows that digital media can improve social and media literacy, civic engagement among citizens especially youths, and promote a climate of active participation if encouraged by State, political, and societal actors especially in multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-racial society like Nigeria in particular and Africa in general. The continuing use of social media and the clear impact in general elections all over the globe further signposts the need to train both journalists and media educators in the area of digital media so as to use them as agents to promote media literacy, civic engagement at both national and global levels especially as such concerns politics and political communication. This is based on our understanding that there is a clear link between civic literacy and political participation.

In other words, a well-informed citizen is in a better position to engage in genuine political discourse and consequently, make a well-informed political decision. Furthermore, we are told by Tapscott, Williams & Herman (2008, p. 24) that e-governance and e-voting are the future and that governments will have no choice but to submit to the demands of ’emerging digital citizens’. In all, information and communications technologies (ICTs) – that is, the Internet and Web-based services – are liberating, and embody a logical, necessary, and irresistible revolution in democratic politics. They innervate, cultivate new and promising forms of expressiveness, and in significant ways, make it easier for people to get involved in the fine art of politicking at multiple levels.

As James Madison puts it, “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives”.

Identify some issues in Nigeria that this conference will address

Civic engagement and participation, Social Media literacy, Discerning Fake News from News, Voter mobilization, Stopping or monitoring electoral fraud and more.

Fill us in on some of your achievements since becoming the president of ACCE

I became the National President of the African Council for Communication Education (ACCE) in October 2017. This October marks my two years in Office. I am also happy to report the following achievements in Office:

Achievements in The Last Two Years (October 2017 – October 2019)

First, I wish to report that our Annual International Conference (AIC) and the Annual General Meeting (AGM), the two vital reasons the Nigerian Chapter of ACCE has remained alive, have continued to hold amidst dwindling sponsorship both for individual members to attend and ACCE as a corporate body to organise the AICs. The AIC/AGM is also one of the reasons scholars and practitioners have continued to identify with the Council. Till date, we have ensured that the two expected AIC/AGM (20th & 21st) held.

Second, we have improved members participation at our Annual International Conferences in the last two years. At PAU Lagos, we recorded more than 450 participants and papers. At this Conference, we reached a milestone of 500 abstracts accepted for presentation.

Third, through improved members participation, we have also improved the subscriber base which has helped to improve the statutory earnings of the Council. The two-year Account details this administration has managed will show progressive increase in the Annual Dues payment and Conference payment.

Fourth, we have reached an advance stage in the review of the ACCE Bye-Law, to accommodate recent developments in the Council. The Bye-Law Review Committee headed by our renowned professor and a founding father of the Council in Nigeria, Professor Des Wilson, has handed over the draft to a paid legal team to put finishing touches to the document. I am positive that within the new year, the draft will be circulated to members for their input and at the 22nd AGM in Kano, hopefully, the New By-Law will be passed and subsequently go into effect.

Fifth, we have successfully launched a journal website and the Online Edition of The Nigerian Journal of Communication (TNJC) and commenced a Free and Open Access publication platform for the Online Edition of TNJC to increase the visibility and citation of the published papers and their authors globally. We have also uploaded the back copies of the journal from 2013 to date. The current issue will go online by December 2019.

Sixth, we promised to improve the Editorial processes of the ACCE Journal and enhance its quality and acceptability internationally by ensuring the Journal is indexed internationally. We are improving the quality, spread and visibility of the journal. International indexing is a bit slow. Before now, the journal was not online and so could not meet the expectations. Now that it is online, we are giving it time so that the website will become popular. We have made contacts on what to do and I am confident that before the life of this administration is over, we will report back positive news. The Editorial Team has also been able to use even personal resources to detect plagiarised papers that would have embarrassed the Council if published. The so-called authors were warned and we have resolved that from henceforth, any member or author that knowingly submits a CLEARLY PLAGIARISED PAPER to the Council for publication, the Editorial Board will not just step down the paper and keep the page fees as we currently do, we will escalate the situation by writing officially to the Institutional Affiliation of the authors to formally complain and report them for further disciplinary action by their universities or institutions. We did not take this path earlier because this warning was yet to be sounded. Now that we are all warned, let everyone do the needful.

Seventh, we are hopeful of getting a DOI number within the next one year if the AGM authorises us to do so. The DOI is usually paid for and maintained with a little subscription. Hundred dollars or less could handle all the processes.

Eight, we have also rebranded the Journal as you can now see. This is part of the upgrading required to take the journal international and indexed.

Nine, we have also kept faith with you on our electoral promises by launching a NON-CONFERENCE Edition of the ACCE Journal to serve as ISSUE TWO of the YEAR (VOLUME). ISSUE ONE of the same YEAR or VOLUME is now the CONFERENCE Edition which will be a SPECIAL ISSUE focused on the CONFERENCE THEME of the previous year. The editorial expectations have taken a toll on the editorial team but with your continued support, we will sustain this development. We, therefore, require more senior persons who are computer literate as Reviewers. We thank the existing Reviewers who accept the peanuts we offer as honorarium to review the papers. We also thank members who took advantage to send in papers. Issue Two of the TNJC is in its second outing this year. To God alone be all the glory.

Ten, we have improved the quality of the Annual ACCE Thematic Book publication. We will continue to do this. The New Editor is Professor Danjuma Gambo, who is currently assisted by Dr. Herbert Batta, an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Arts, University of Uyo. Their first outing together was launched yesterday at the Opening Ceremony.

Eleven, we secured AGM’s approval to commence the Scholar-to-Scholar Sessions via Poster Presentation in our Annual Conferences. This will increase members’ participation and interactions at our Annual Conferences. ACCE will provide additional support/infrastructure to those selected to present at the Poster session. We hope to test this platform at the 22nd AIC.

Twelve, we began a PRE-CONFERENCE RESEARCH WORKSHOP to maximise the first day of our conferences as well as help our budding scholars and researchers master the tools of academic research. That Workshop entered its second year this year. The first Workshop focused on Qualitative Research Methods facilitated by Professor Fred Amadi and the second edition focussed on Content Analysis Research Method, which was facilitated by the National President himself.

Thirteen, we have continued to show accountability with the little resources at our disposal to run the Council. In keeping faith with our promises, we have continued to publish ACCE Accounts in the last two years. This year’s Account is already in the Public Domain. This is proof of our commitment to financial integrity and openness in the running of ACCE.

Fourteen, one of the major highlights of the 20th AGM was Council’s acceptance of our initiative to have a Graduated Membership Status for ALL ACCE Members as well as publish a festschrift for every Veteran of the African Council for Communication Education (VACCE) every two years according to when they were appointed. This approval is now in effect since October 2018. Membership records will be taken at this AIC/AGM and at the 22nd AIC and AGM. By the grace of God, the first beneficiaries of the Graduated Membership Status (VACCE, FACCE, SACCE, MACCE) will be announced and inducted into the various statuses of the Council at the 23rd AIC/AGM.

Fifteen, we are also happy to report that the approved Specialised Professional Divisions within the Council have since been inaugurated and have performed excellently well. I, therefore, wish to use this opportunity to thank the Pioneer Executive Team members especially the Heads of Department, Deputies and Secretaries for taking up the mantle of leadership of the Divisions with no financial support. It is on record that the marketing of this year’s Conference, Abstract submission, processing and acceptance as well as the scheduling for Syndicate Sessions were done by the Professional Interest Divisions. This is commendable. This Administration will issue a Letter of Commendation to all the Divisions Leadership at the end of the first two years of their tenure. We are therefore happy to also report that this year’s Conference and presentations were done largely on interest areas. So, most presentations would have taken place in a Syndicate of likely interest and discussed by like-minded experts and scholars within that area.

Sixteen, we are also happy to have launched the Maiden Edition of the ACCE Newsletter in our First Tenure in Office. The DPA and Editor, has highlighted some of the challenges, which will be tackled to ensure publication is regular.

I am also happy to report that ACCE participated actively in the Bayero University-led initiative to upgrade the communication curriculum in Nigerian universities. That effort has moved for the creation and approval of SCHOOLS/COLLEGES/FACULTIES of Communication with seven cognate Departments. ACCE is supporting this move and will continue until this becomes a reality.

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