To celebrate 2020 World Press Freedom day, Media For Community Change partnered with the Embassy of Sweden in Nigeria to host a webinar.
The day is marked every May 3. This year’s event was organized to celebrate principles of press freedom and discuss the situation for journalists and media workers in Nigeria, concentrating on 2020’s theme ‘Journalism without Fear or Favour’.
Two highly rated guest speakers from the Nigerian media space – Mr. Dapo Olorunyonmi, CEO and Publisher of PremiumTimes Newspaper and Mrs. Motunrayo Alaka, CEO and Executive Director Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism attended the event.
They spoke on the topics: ‘Patterns of media ownerships in Nigeria and how it has enhanced or constrained values and how they interface in the process of democracy building’ and Promoting independent journalism and media online’ respectively.
Giving his presentation, Olorunyonmi, recounted the patterns of media ownerships in Nigeria from the 19th century of Private Print Press to Government Owned Broadcast and the digital age in 1996.
Although the digital age comes with its uniqueness, it is also comes with several challenges.
He explained: “I think the challenges ahead today would be how do we deepen that context? How do we shake up the excesses and weaknesses of our media up to this point. Those weaknesses, some of them alluded to by the Ambassador which is just sometimes just blatant lack of professionalism, inability to provide fact-based and contextual reporting and all these go to harm the project of democracy making because, at the end of the day, media as media is itself an oxymoron.
“We are reminded of the absence in our media culture and make sure we go as close as possible to building the foundation of an accountable media, ability to bring innovation into o the newsroom as things get far more difficult from a financial and ethical perspective.”
On the bright side, he noted that digital media has helped expand access to information exponentially although this is coinciding with “the worse type of ignorance and falsification.”
Alaka, on her part, highlighted the following as means to promoting media online- holding the government accountable especially in democracy, fighting for truth, walking the talk, developing the capacity of the media whether online or offline, providing legal support for reporters and collaboration across sectors and interests.
On accountability, she said: “It is easy a lot to call Facebook and Twitter to tell them to get their acts together, but we must also be truthful to acknowledge that at the centre of propaganda before the age of digital and during and perhaps after is the government itself and it is very active in the online space as a means of spreading misinformation and disinformation and it is used as a weapon for Government. We must hold the government accountable in this space.”
While fact checking by fighting the lies, she called on journalists to also fight for the truth.
She said: “Ethics is something that we have compromised a lot. I often say, if journalism is a product, credibility will be the unique selling point. We must do our best to spend accurate information early as much as we are debunking the lies in that space.”
Alaka equally urged media professionals to practice what they preach.
“When we talk about gender issues, the leadership of female persons in the newsroom, for instance, the media is at stake for 35 percent affirmative action representation for politicians but a survey by Wole Soyinka Center for Investigative Journalism on the status of female persons in the newsroom shows that media management has a ratio of 10:2 in favour of men as the ratio of leadership, senior editors ratio 8:2, the board of directors of media houses ratio 7:2, so if we are asking society to give us 35 percent we should not do less. In fact, we should do 50:50 but that is not the case”, she said.
Due to increased ‘publishers’ on the online media space, she called for training capacity for the ‘newbies’ on the ethics of journalism.
“Now that we are all publishers, those who have some form of structure around their publishing need to be trained in the ethics of journalism. WSCIJ is having a program in this regard to train people in that space because you are sharing the gains of having a voice, you need to bear the responsibility of having space with us. You have to be more proactive in that space”, she added.
Giving the opening speech, the Ambassador of Sweden Embassy in Nigeria, Carl Charles Grän, stressed the need to safeguard the freedom of the press.
He said: “We strongly believe that the ability to separate reliable information from unreliable information is highly connected to the quality of the press. This requires both knowledge and having access to the proper fact-checking tools.
“Therefore, the Embassy of Sweden in Nigeria has been using a toolkit produced by the Swedish Institute called Fake not Fact. With this toolkit we want to raise awareness and contribute with concrete fact checking tools. Earlier this year, we had exhibition in 3 different schools reaching over 100 school students. A free, independent and pluralistic media plays an indispensable role in informing the public during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.”
He appreciated the organizers, Media for Community Change saying, “the Embassy is proud to have worked with you in the past and hope to continue same.”