From Catherine Agbo
President Muhammadu Buhari has challenged journalists to practice good journalism, which he observed, engenders good governance.
The president said only good journalism has the ability to checkmate the growing phenomena of hate speech and fake news in the society.
He stated this in his keynote address at the opening ceremony of the 67th Congress of the International Press Institute (IPI) held at the State House Conference Centre, on Thursday.
The theme of the conference is: ‘Why Good Journalism Matters: Quality Media for Strong Societies.’
According to President Buhari, the theme of the congress was appropriate, in view of the changing media landscape, the explosion of the social media and the rapidly evolving new technology, which have had a profound impact on media business and media practice.
“In a world where the borderline between hate speech and free speech has become blurred, good journalism matters. In an environment where fake news dwarfs investigative reporting, Good Journalism Matters. For survival in an increasingly competitive field, Good Journalism Matters. Good journalism promotes Good Governance. I, therefore, urge participants to give depth to the topic in your discussions and conclusions.
The president expressed happiness that international delegates to the congress had benefitted from the visa on arrival policy of his administration, explaining that the policy was one of the reform initiatives of his administration, designed to aid the ease of doing business in Nigeria.
He noted that Nigeria and the IPI had enjoyed a special relationship, with prominent Nigerian media professionals playing leading roles in the organisation, and added that, “perhaps the most significant symbol of this special relationship is the Nigeria Institute of Journalism, Ogba, Ikeja, Lagos established by IPI in 1963. It is our pride that your vision of a professional journalism training institution in Nigeria has taken firm root.”
He said Nigeria was honoured to host the IPI, pointing out that, “your annual congress is holding in Nigeria during a period of global terrorism. Nigeria experiences that scourge through Boko Haram, which has been technically degraded and has no territorial hold anywhere, anymore, in its northeast operational base. The Internally Displaced Persons are gradually returning to their communities in reasonable safety and security.
“It is a reflection of your assessment of Nigeria as a safe country that you gave the country the hosting right for this conference. As you have seen since your arrival, you made a wise and right choice.”
Earlier in his address, IPI board chairman, John Yearwood, who would be completing his tenure at the end of the congress, thanked Nigeria for opening its doors to the IPI and commended all IPI members for the support they had given him, which had helped the organization attain milestones in the area of press freedom, especially in Turkey, recently.
He called on President Buhari to look into the issue of journalists in jailfor various reasons, saying: “I will like to urge President Buhari who is the champion of the people of Nigeria to look into the issue of journalists incarcerated.”
Executive Director of IPI, Barbara Trionfi, decried attacks on journalists all over the world, saying at least 43 journalists had been killed this year alone.
She noted that journalists in Nigeria enjoyed a degree of freedom but still face challenges in doing their job.
Trionfi said: “As we gather here today from different countries to open IPI’s 67th World Congress, there is a sense that independent journalism is under attack and press freedom has eroded all over the world. From Mexico to the Philippines, from Zimbabwe to Turkey, from Russia to Ethiopia, journalists are being imprisoned. They are denied access to justice.
“They are threatened and insulted on social media. They are directly targeted and labeled as traitors and enemies of the state and they are killed, shot in front of their houses, on their way to work, by killers who know that murdering journalists is the easiest way to silence them and ensure that the stories of corruption they were investigating, the wrongdoings they had uncovered will never be revealed.
“At least 43 journalists have been killed so far in 2018 in places like Afghanistan, Mexico, India, Pakistan or the Philippines to mention a few. Also here in Nigeria, a country with a very lively news industry which enjoys a good degree of press freedom, safety has been a serious problem for journalists, not only those covering the areas where insurgents are active but also journalists covering corruption have been targeted.”
Chairman, local organising committee for the congress, Nduka Obaigbena, while speaking on safety of journalists, assured that in its typical way of resolving its challenges, the issue of the journalist in detention would be resolved.
He emphasised the importance of good journalism, saying it can be used to tackle issues such as security and the immigration crisis that has caused several deaths so far, in the world.
According to the Nduka, who is also the President of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), “Immigration remains one central issue all over the world. In Europe and on the sea of Mediterranean, a lot of Africans are dying.
“If we all can also report it in a robust way, perhaps we can also reverse this. The issue of course, l believe is economic. With $3 or $4 million dollars here in Nigeria, we can keep them here. That is what we can do, if we report and throw light on the circumstances they face. The issue is purely economic and we can resolve our problems here. So, we just have to do more and throw light on these issues.
“Yes, Nigeria is facing security challenges and we are trying to deal with it in the panel here but we must also remember where it started. After democracy came, we were not concerned about the size of our security forces with regards to our armed forces, with regards to our police.
“I believe the sizes of our police and armed forces are not enough. Before Boko Haram set sail, we didn’t think of security. Now, we are confronted by a menace and we all have to put our heads together to rebuild our total security infrastructure, bring policing to the communities, to the cities so that we can ensure the safety of our citizens and therefore produce economic growth. The world is interested in how Nigeria fares. I believe this is what we can talk about in this IPI conference.”