The Executive Director of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) Motunrayo Alaka alongside other media resource persons have called on journalists in the media sector to sustain media accountability by practicing journalism without fear or favour.
The call was made at a virtual event organised by the Media for Community Change Initiative, a non-governmental organisation in partnership with the Embassy of Sweden, Abuja on Monday 4th May in commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day 2020 which is marked on 3rd May every year. The theme for 2020 is ‘Journalism without Fear or Favour’. Giving the opening remarks, the Ambassador of Sweden Embassy in Nigeria, Carl Charles Grän, stressed the need to safeguard the freedom of the press.
Motunrayo Alaka, who was a keynote speaker on the topic ‘Promoting independent journalism and media online’ highlighted the need to hold the government accountable in a democracy such as ours by fighting for the truth, practicing what we preach, developing the capacity of the media and providing legal support with collaboration across sectors and interests. She stressed the need to hold leaders accountable without fear or favour with an upfront attitude.
She emphasized that the media has to pay attention to the ethics of the profession which has been greatly compromised. 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.” She also touched on gender issues and the role of female leaders in the newsroom by canvassing for a balanced newsroom with a 50:50 affirmative representation by both men and women. On what needs to be done to promote independent journalism online, she said, “There is a myth that I believe that says everyone is online. Not everyone is online. The real world is still mostly offline. The online is a community that we cannot ignore. We must acknowledge the presence that goes on offline as being very important as that we see online.” She believes the present pandemic is showing that the press is crucial and attack on the press and truth costs lives.
Dapo Olorunyomi, the Chief Executive Officer and publisher of Premium Times newspaper, who was the other keynote speaker elaborated on the contribution of digital media to media ownership and concentration in Nigeria and how this has brought the voice of many to the context of media making. He stated that the challenge ahead is the ability of the present media to hold power accountable and work in ensuring a solid foundation of accountable media for the future. He concluded by encouraging the media to promote truth and verified information especially in cases and times such as the pandemic and other similar events that may occur in the future.
Other key issues emphasized at the event was the need for all journalists to uphold the moral value and ethics of journalism; organize training capacity for online and offline journalists on the ethics of journalism; safeguard the freedom of the press; increase knowledge and access to proper fact-checking tools; and the need for journalists to constantly draw attention to those areas of democracy that are being ignored.