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Scrap agencies, laws gaging media - Editors urge FG

.More than other times, media should be keen on national security - Ganduje


From Chuka Nnabuife, Kano

NIGERIAN editors of print and broadcast media organisations have called for the revocation of existing laws and policies that gag the press in the country.

Gathered in Kano, Kano State for the 2021 Biennial Convention of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), the body urged President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly (NASS) to repeal or radically reform the laws and practices of government that hinder the progress of mass media in Nigeria.

Speaking during the opening event of the four-day convention scheduled to end on Wednesday, June 2, president of NGE, Mustapha Isah identified the following laws at practices: The National Broadcasting Commission Act; The Nigerian Press Council Act; the Official Secret Act; Publication of False News in Newspapers policy; Provoking Breach of Peace by Offensive Publication; Cybercrimes (Prohibition) Act; Printing Press as major drawbacks to media practice in Nigeria as well as handles of hindrance to the advancement of the country.

But Comrade Mustapha added that the Guild is not advocating for"freedom without responsibility" because the absence of limits of operation in any venture in society is like having "a vehicle without brakes" which "even an insane person wouldn't want to drive."

 Rather, the NGE leader noted that his members are responsible people who are guided by professional knowledge and practices.

"All editors here", he explained, "have subscribed to the code of ethics of journalism as developed by the Nigerian Press Organisation."

He observed that trained editors do bandy rumours and fake news.

"Fake news has become an epidemic worldwide. The advent of social media has enabled the purveyors of fake news" but, "citizen journalism is here with us and information dissemination has been democratised."

He however, observed the inability of mainstream media organisations to play very actively in the social media. 

Mustapha therefore, called on "the traditional media to get more involved in online journalism to chase the charlatans away."

 Also speaking in his keynote address during the event, vice chancellor of Federal University, Kashere, Gombe State, Umaru Pate, urged the media organisations in Nigeria to pay more attention to online journalism and professional ethics.

"Without mincing words, things are changing... online journalism is compounding the problem."

Prof. Umaru projected that future of media is tilting more to "more audience engagement". 

He noted that the experience of the mass media in Nigeria lately, especially within the ongoing coronavirus pandemic shows that depending on advertisement and previously existing funding models will not suffice."There is the need to establish a National Emergency Fund."

The don emphasised diversification of business and operational interests.

On the need for diversification, the scholar and onetime practicing journalist, who is the first professor of mass communication in northern Nigeria and fellow of NGE urged media firms to pay higher attention to technological innovations, gathering and publishing exclusive news, particularly "investigative reports with daggering impact".

 He emphasised the need for the media to devote more effort to attracting youths to love and be consumers of the contents of their products.

In attendance at the event were the governor of Kano State, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje; former governor of Ogun State, Aremo Segun Osoba, who was chairman of the opening event, a one time president of NGE and currently Special Assistant to President Buhari on Media and Communication, Mr. Garba Shehu; president of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Chris Isiguzo, among others.

Theme of the on-going convention is 'The Media in COVID-19 Era: Challenges and Opportunities'.

Chief Isiguzo noted that one major factor the COVID-19 era  has thrown up is the rise of armchair reporting and fake news.

In his comment, Gov. Ganduje, thanked editors for their choice of Kano State as venue of the convention in which their will be election of a new national executive of NGE, and assured the heads of media organisations that they are in "the most populous state in the federation" and the safest state to be.

He dwelt on freedom of the press, and the ethics and code of conduct in the mass media, and noted that ethics are not enough because there is a need for the larger society to have a say in how their press will operate. Hence, hanging on just ethics of media practice which only operators in the industry know and enforce may not suffice. "There is a need to police the police", he reasoned.

"In my opinion, the Nigerian press is one of the freeist in the world," he said, while noting that the times in the country is not rife for a media sector without checks and balances....

"This is the time editors should be closely sensitive to the developments in our country... and exercise their sense of social responsibility in executing their duty...

 The media has a great role to play in building our nation, now," said the governor.

A highpoint of the convention is the induction of 31 editors who newly-qualified for NGE membership, one of which is the Editor of National Light Group of Newspapers, Mrs. Rose Oranye.

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