Governments must protect the independent functioning of the media and allow various viewpoints to flourish if the media are to function in the public interest.
This is the view of the Nigerian Union of Journalists’ Chris Isiguzo.
“The role of independent and realistic media in fostering participation is critical as the media report on aspects of decision-making processes,” he said.
Isiguzo was a panellist on a FES Nigeria and Media Rights Agenda webinar called “The Role of the Media in Good Governance in Nigeria” moderated by Ojo Edetaen, Media Rights Agenda executive director.
Isiguzo was in conversation with International Press Centre executive director Lanre Arongundade, BONews Online publisher Blessing Olandunjoye, Ann Iyonu, the executive director of the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation and Laolu Akande, the senior special assistant to the Nigerian President on media and publicity in the office of the Vice President.
Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari-led government has come under fire in recent weeks for police brutality by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) which was accused of excessive harassment, torture, extortion and murder.
Tens of thousands of people have taken to Nigerian streets in #EndSARS protests.
Olandunjoye said the #EndSARS protests could be a means to fight for better governance for ordinary Nigerians as they have little confidence in the media to do it for them.
“It almost seems that many Nigerians don't trust the media, probably because of the question of lack of independence of the media and probably lack of professionalism,” she said.
Isiguzo disagreed and said protests are a form of freedom of expression.
“You cannot remove citizen participation from democratic governance. The citizens must also be allowed to freely express themselves much as the media is there to hold government accountable,” he said.
Lekan Otufondurin, Media Career Services executive director who attended the event said there is a mob mentality about what is expected of the media.
“One of the issues that have come out on reporting #EndSARS is that people think that everything that they throw on social media we should take and report on it. That is not reporting. We are bound by ethics and we are bound by law,” he said.
Edetaen highlighted Section 22 of the Nigerian constitution that outlines the media’s role in holding governments accountable. It says: “The press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this Chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people.”
Iyonu said the media have both social and legal responsibilities to promote and ensure good governance in the West African country: “As such, its role is to report on maybe the activities of government to the people and also reflects the feelings of the people to those who govern them.”
Global Investigative Journalism Network has an article called “The Forensic Methods Reporters Are Using to Reveal Attacks by Security Forces” that gives journalists tips on how to use forensic methods to find out who is behind attacks on people at protests. Find it here.