Activity: Media Clinic

Year: July 2019

Theme: “Journalism in the Digital Era: Ethics and the Future of News”

The Africa Media Development Foundation (AMDF) on Thursday 11th July 2019 held its 5th Media clinic with the theme: “Journalism in the Digital Era: Ethics and the Future of News” at the AMDF Training Room in Kaduna, North West Nigeria.

Media Clinic is an annual event organized by AMDF, to bring together media practitioners, Media Executive and the Civil Society Organizations to X-ray ethical issues encountered by media practitioners in carrying out their responsibility and proffer solutions for such challenges.

In her opening remarks, the Programme Coordinator, AMDF Sekyen Dadik noted that “The advancement in technology has offered great opportunities for the media and the entire communication industry. This has opened new vistas for the media, thus becoming more influential in shaping public opinion.

More challenging, she noted, is the responsibility it places on professional journalists to maintain best practices, hence the need to examine the social and ethical consequences that come with the revolution; as journalists face the challenge of aligning with their code of ethics towards preserving the reliability and quality of news or false balance and poor reportage”.

She enjoined participants to examine their contributions towards uplifting the profession, “let us examine the challenges we are daily faced with and remain resolute in championing a credible journalism practice.

“With the influx of people into the practice, how can we as journalists close the existing credibility gap and contribute to upholding the ethics and code of conduct of our profession towards earning the trust and confidence of the public, while safeguarding the trust and the responsibility placed on us?”

In his goodwill message, Chairman of Nigerian Union of Journalists Kaduna Council, Adamu Yusuf, who was represented by the Vice Chairman, Mohammed Sabiu acknowledged AMDF for its efforts at supporting journalists in Kaduna and bringing to fore issues that affect journalism practice.

He noted that the theme was apt considering the opportunities and ease of practice the internet has provided for journalists. He however lamented the situation where some journalists are not computer literate in spite of the digital revolution. He reiterated the Council’s commitment to partner with AMDF towards advancing the cause of journalism in the state.

Also, the Coordinator of League of Professional Online Journalists (LEPOJ) Alex Uangbaoje commended AMDF for its consistency in holding the media Clinic thus providing an opportunity for journalists to learn and also discuss issues they face in carrying out their responsibility.

The meeting which featured a panel Discussion and an interactive session had 3 panel discussants looking at different issues.

One of the discussants, Reuben Buhari a Media Consultant and former DG Media to the Late Ibrahim Yakowa, former Governor of Kaduna State while speaking on the topic “Digital Journalism and the Nigerian Journalists: How Far, How well?”, noted that the internet has changed the face of journalism and the change has come to stay. Adding that online journalism is gradually becoming a threat to traditional media and journalists must step up their game to remain relevant in the industry.

He said though the internet has come with its challenges among which is the quest to break the news which often leads to unverified reports, inciting stories, and unprofessionalism, the opportunities it presents cannot be ignored.

He therefore called on journalists to embrace the opportunities created by the internet but they must also be mindful of professionalism and the need to maintain highest standard.

John Shiklam the State Correspondent of THISDAY Newspaper who spoke on Ethics and Journalism Practice in Nigeria: Code of Ethics and the Battle for Professionalism acknowledged that the Ethics in journalism is a familiar issue being battled with as it regulates actions of professionalism.

He decried the situation where journalism has a dented image because people get away with unprofessionalism.  Some of the factors responsible he noted include: Ownership of the media organizations for commercial, ethnic or religious reasons with little or no regard for professionalism and Non- payment of salaries which he said is responsible for one of the serious issues bedeviling the profession- the brown envelope syndrome.

He maintained that to resolve some of the issues, owners of the media must live up to their responsibility to cater for the welfare of their employees.

Speaking on “Journalism and Gender: How Friendly is the Environment for Nigeria Women Journalists”, Maryam Ahmadu Suka a reporter with Daily Trust Newspapers pointed out that the format of addressing all journalists as “Gentlemen of the Press” represents gender bias and reveals how unfriendly the environment is to women journalists.

She also pointed out cultural factors and incompetence as some of the reasons for the low involvement of women in journalism especially print media in the North.

She added that some media owners do not give women opportunities to explore and grow in different beats like defense and security, politics but confine them to fashion, women and children, and kitchen desk.

She called on female journalists especially those in the broadcast industry  to desist from hiding in the programmes unit or newsroom but come out to make an impact on the field alongside their male counterparts. She also encouraged veteran women journalists to initiate programmes to train upcoming women journalists.

Some of the issues highlighted during the interactive session were:

  1. In spite of the Code of Ethics guiding the profession, journalism remains very porous with the authorities who formulated the policy doing nothing to ensure its implementation.
  2. Non inclusion of online journalists in the code of ethics and NUJ constitution so the authorities concern can sanction erring online members.
  3. The internet has provided a lot of opportunities for journalists but many are still not computer literate to fit in.
  4. Non- payment of salaries by most media organizations has encouraged most journalists to freely engage in the brown envelope syndrome without regards to the ethics and code of conduct of journalists.
  5. Because of the quest to be the first to break the news, many journalists do not verify stories before publishing as many lack the capacity for fact checking to ensure the news sent out is the fact and not fake news.
  6. Many journalists do not take advantage of the story grants opportunities available for journalists in developing world.
  7. Many journalists reduce ethical issues to brown envelope without considering other issues of fairness, balance, factual and respect for privacy.

Call to Action:

  1. The Nigerian Guild of Editors, Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria and Nigerian Union Journalists as stakeholders of the Nigerian Press Council must ensure a strict adherence to the code of ethics and be deliberate in sanctioning erring members. They must emphasize the need to stop the brown envelope syndrome by ensuring media owners pay their staff’s salaries and benefits in due time.
  2. These stakeholders responsible for the Code of Ethics and NUJ constitution should review the code of ethics and constitution which were last reviewed over two decades ago to capture online journalists considering the opportunity presented by the digital revolution.
  3. The NUJ should do all within its power to checkmate the influx of people into the profession
  4. There is the need for all journalists to understand and adhere to the code of conduct of the practice, hence Media owners, NUJ and National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) should be deliberate about building capacity of its staff and members.
  5. Journalists should take advantage of training opportunities available so they can take the centre stage in online journalism.
  6. Women Journalists should be encouraged to practice in different beats.