Media stakeholders urged to adhere to ethical codes
AHEAD of the general elections now to be held later next month, communication scholars and practitioners at a forum at Covenant University, Ogun State, charged media stakeholders to strictly adhere to the existing professional codes of journalism in its coverage of the 2015 elections. At the one-day consultative forum, the participants reiterated the role of the media in fostering national cohesion, especially during elections, thus urging it on the need to abide by its professional and ethical principles.
Representatives drawn from African Council for Communication Education, Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria, National Union of Journalists and communication experts from the host institution attended the forum.
Participants brainstormed on the 2015 general elections and national security issues, including security for journalists, welfare, training, economic survival of media houses, media narratives, hate speeches, social media and the clash of government’s interest and employer’s interests.
Convener of the meeting and Professor of Mass Communication, Covenant University, Prof Cecil Blake, noted that the importance of the media in maintaining unity in a nation could not be underestimated.
“On the African continent, whenever there is election, there is automatic tension. The fact of the matter is that the fourth estate has been guilty in creating aspect of that tension. So the concern is to ascertain that the fourth estate, practitioners and owners, will work towards the promotion of national cohesion rather than contribute to its collapse. And elections have the tendency to promote that; you all know the case of Kenya, it led even to people being taken to International Criminal Court.”
In a communique issued at the end of the forum, the group unanimously called on media owners to reproduce, distribute and share copies of the documented professional code of ethics of journalism on elections coverage to all journalists. It also stated that stakeholders in the media industry should strengthen existing internal mechanism to sanction erring media practitioners and organisations who do not adhere to the codes.
“Media organisations should provide adequate space and air time to serialise the provisions of the code.”
It recommended that media organisations and security agencies should collaborate to ensure the safety of journalists.
“Members of the public should contribute to the protection of journalists on duty; media owners should urgently enhance the provision of insurance packages for all journalists, while journalists operating in high risk security zones should be covered by life insurance and should also be well remunerated.”
On welfare, it stated, “The forum observes that the welfare of journalists is not adequately catered for and therefore we are calling on media owners to review welfare package for all categories of media workers and upward review of the current minimum entry level into the profession of journalism in Nigeria.”
It also recommended an enhanced, coordinated and inclusive training of communication practitioners and a review of the curriculum of mass communication and journalism with specific consideration for the introduction of special courses on conflict reporting.
Regretting that media narratives about Nigeria and most African countries are negative and dominated by the perspective of foreign media, the group encouraged African media to positively project the true African perspectives.
On hate speech, the group enjoined journalists to desist from publishing inflammatory statements likely to promote disintegration or ethnic hatred.