Thursday, 14 August 2014

Akpabio’s vote for ethical journalism BY ANIEKAN UMANAH

Akpabio’s vote for ethical journalism BY ANIEKAN UMANAH
Journalism is not an exact science, and can never be. Every investigative piece, therefore, is susceptible to error. Society however, stands at great risk when practitioners deliberately and consistently publish complete falsehood with the intent of either inciting the people to rebellion or for personal or group interest. As necessary interface between the people and the government, journalists have eternal responsibility to be truthful and fair in their reportage.

Perhaps, it was the danger that professional misconducts on the part of journalists portend for society that made Ron Yates, a former foreign correspondent and Dean Emeritus of the College of Media at the University of Springfield, Illinois, USA to remark that, “ Journalism is not about the journalist, it is about the people the journalist is responsible to. When journalists begin to believe they are more important than the story, then they have lost their way and forsaken those responsibilities.”

The unbearable misconduct of journalists in recent times, especially in Akwa Ibom, therefore, has become a source of worry to His Excellency, Governor Godswill Akpabio, CON. As such, on the occasion of the groundbreaking ceremony of the Godswill Akpabio International Press Centre, he took out time to enlighten everyone on the dangers of allowing unethical conducts among journalists to fester.

Chief Akpabio, who explained that his administration has  “treated the media as auxiliaries of government and placed them on a respectable footing in the society,” emphasized that “We have not only done more for the media than any other administration, we have sought to ensure adequate remuneration and a comfortable working environment for the media. Indeed we have deliberately coveted your friendship and ignored the many provocations arrayed at us by quack journalists and the gutter press.”

Concerned about the activities of some sections of the press, who allow politicians to use them as agents of blackmail and social destabilisation, the Governor challenged the NUJ to do more than name the Press Centre after him. “Let the NUJ note the immortal words of Horace Greely, the legendary editor of the New York Tribune. In 1841, he described the media as a school; a community of inquiry where societal issues are reduced to question and answer for the betterment of all.”  

Having done so much for the press community in Akwa Ibom, Chief Akpabio urged the media to  adhere to Greely’s other advice that the media should be heralds of truth, protectors of peace and good order. In addition the media should be a great secular church, a system of evangelist purveying the truth and making the society a better place.

Remaining silent and allowing fifth columnists, who masquerade as journalists to continue in unethical practices, for the Governor, represents a societal shirking of responsibilities, which has grave consequences. Therefore, he believes that “Journalism practice should be circumscribed within the bounds of decorum and law and those who violate the laws of sedition, should be prepared for the consequences of their actions.” He emphasized that “ The media should know that they are subject to the laws of the land, which protect the society and ensure the continuance of society. “

To show he was not averse to truthful and constructive journalism practice, the media friendly Governor counselled that “In carrying out your core responsibilities of educating and informing the masses, through investigative journalism, I advise you to let the words of United States President Ronald Reagan guide your conduct. Reagan said, “Trust but verify,” by which he meant that you should not only trust your sources, you should also seek to verify the information for truth, balance and objectivity.”

The need to promote good ethical conduct among journalists was not lost on the President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Comrade Garba Mohammed, who was on hand to witness the ground-breaking ceremony, alongside some other national officers. 

According to the President, the NUJ and other stakeholders in the media are concerned about the increasing cases of professional misconducts and abuse of privileges on the part of journalists. He posited that “as journalists, we should always bear in mind that we are guided by the ethics and Code of Conducts of media profession.” 

To underscore the gravity of the situation and the seriousness of the National Executive about tackling the issue of professional misconduct among journalists, Comrade Garba, on that occasion, called on the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, to ensure the immediate reconstitution of the Nigerian Press Council. The Council is the only body with the constitutional power to punish erring journalists. 

It was a consensus of a sort on that occasion, as the Akwa Ibom State Council Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Comrade Patrick Albert did not close his remarks until he restated the commitment of his executive to ensuring good conduct and ethical practices among members.

And, to further accentuate his untiring commitment to promoting the welfare of journalists and convivial environment for journalism practice, Governor Akpabio donated N100m in support of the  first phase of the project, which  includes the Perimeter Fencing/Gate House, Mini Club House, Media Museum, A-1000 Capacity Auditorium, A-2-Storey Office Complex, with a-300 capacity ICT Centre, and a Club House with recreational facilities.  

Indeed, Governor Akpabio’s vote and clarion call for ethical practices among Akwa Ibom, nay Nigerian journalists, is apt, especially given the imminence of the 2015 general elections. If unchecked, unethical journalists are most likely going to be ready tools for political jobbers, who would do anything to get electoral victories for their paymasters.

The time to save our noble profession from the activities of charlatans is now!

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