September 10, 2022

Media must ensure democracy survives in Nigeria – Gbajabiamila

Ajulo hails Gbajabiamila

Femi Gbajabiamila

…demands high level of professionalism

says proliferation of online media affecting traditional platforms’ advertising income

By Levinus Nwabughiogu-Abuja

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila Saturday, said that the survival of Nigerian democracy rested with the media who must provoke public discourse and then hold the leaders to account.

Gbajabiamila spoke at a capacity building workshop with the them “Deepening Legislative Knowledge Through Critical Reporting”, organized by the media unit of his office headed by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi for the House of Representatives press Corps in Abuja.

He said: “The role of the press in a democracy is multi-faceted. You inform the public and you educate them about the law and government, politics and governance. You record history as it happens and preserve the national memory as a guide and warning for the future. And you hold power to account, ensuring that those who are chosen to serve the public interest keep faith with the citizens who depend on them. Democracy will not long survive without a vibrant, independent, innovative and patriotic press.”

Gbajabiamila who demanded high level of professionalism from media practitioners however regretted that a section of the media had deviated from the norms and ethics of the profession.

He also revealed that the evolution of online media had dwindled the advertising prospects and incomes of the traditional media.

“Through the years, technological advances, the rapid increase in access to internet services, and the growth of social media has changed the way we receive and interact with news and information. What we understand as the professional press – newspapers and magazines, television and radio – are now in competition with every member of the public with a smartphone, access to the internet and the inclination to participate in the public discourse.

“While the landscape within which the press operates has changed in dramatic ways, the duties of the press and the public expectation of them remains the same.

“We expect journalists and media organisations to maintain a high level of professional conduct; we demand accurate reporting and detailed analysis of public policy and expect the media to continue to defend citizens’ rights, hold the powerful to account and promote the public good through the honourable practice of journalism.

“Often lost in the conversation is the fact that after all is said and done, media is a business. Quality journalism doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it requires resources to train and equip staff, and invest in technology to improve content quality and broadcast capabilities, amongst other things.

“For generations, these resources have come from the sales of newspapers and magazines and from advertising and subscriptions. For the last two decades, the proliferation of online sources has decimated sales and precipitated a drastic and rapid decline in advertising income.

“We need journalists we can rely on to be our islands of accurate information and context in a sea of misinformation and propaganda manifesting as journalism. Having such organisations and individuals may in time to come, prove the difference between progress and regression and between peace and strife.

“The media is the fourth and last pillar of democracy. It is the role of the press to ensure that the exercise of state and economic power is fair and proper and in service of the greater good.

“Unfortunately, far from giving voice to the aspirations of our nation, or holding the powerful properly to account, sections of journalism in Nigeria have become an endless pursuit of clickbait through the careless writing of falsehoods and malicious publication of half-truths. I understand the commercial pressures that result in such outcomes. However, you will agree with me that this too has led to the devaluation of the press and the media in the eyes of the public.

“We can all do better. And we are obliged to try especially in this defining moment in our nation’s history when the choices we make today will determine if we get to have a country and what kind of country we get to have. Our highest task and our most pressing ambition must be to safeguard this democracy.

“If we fail in this regard, nothing else will matter, nothing else we do will count in our favour when the tally of history is settled. We have it in our power to improve our nation’s future and leave this world better than we found it. So, let us do that, and let us do it together”, he said.

Also speaking virtually from Australia, the spokesman of the House, Hon. Benjamin Kalu called for a synergy between the media and the legislature.

“Very often we refer to the press as the fourth estate of the realm because the press is a vital component of our democracy with the explicit capacity of advocacy and the implicit capacity to frame political issues, not just for social discourse but also, for the information and consideration of the legislature and other policymakers. Indeed, the press is at the centre of a successful governance overseeing the synergy of governance and communication”, he said.

On his part, the Clerk of the House of Representatives, Dr. Yahaya Danzaria in his goodwill message said “there was a need to ensure a more organized, effective and unified communication channel for the National Assembly to curtail not only the litany of erroneous or sometimes completely false reportage of news about the activities and actions of the National Assembly, but also to protect the integrity of the reporting media houses”.