The role of the media in democratic governance and election process has again be stressed at one- day democratic dialogue organized for media experts and stakeholders in Ibadan, Oyo State. The democratic dialogue which was organized by the Center for Applied Ethics and Political Communication in Africa CEAPOCOM AFRICA provided opportunity for media experts, government agencies, political parties and civil society in the South West to interact and voice their views on prospects and challenges of democratic governance in Nigeria.
As part of efforts to promote credible, fair and peaceful general elections in 2019 various stakeholders including academia, government agencies, media practitioners, members of civil society and political parties enjoined Nigerians to embrace ethics in whatever areas of their callings.
Speakers, including Prof. Ayo Olukotun, Oloye Lekan Alabi, Prof. Lucky Afinotan, and representatives of Independent National Electoral Commission, National Broadcasting Commission, National Orientation Agency, Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, Women Research and Documentation Center, Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, and media experts from print and electronic media highlighted the power of the media to set positive or negative public agenda in democratic process. They also observed that the media by the virtues of their reports, commentaries and editorials have the potential to make or mar democracy in Nigeria.
Prof. Ayo Olukotun who was the Chairman of the democratic dialogue pointed out that “the use of appropriate words can inform broad appreciation of democracy and provide true perspective of political reality while wrong use of words in political narration can inhibit proper understanding of political context “. He added that the Center for Applied Ethics and Political Communication in African is acting as a bridge to provide redemptive template that can get Nigeria political landscape from moral wilderness.
Prof. Olukotun advised Nigerians not to limit themselves to talk show without application of values and ethics, particularly in political transformation and communication, noting that a country that has people who can only talk without accompanying the talk with right deed cannot make progress. He stress the need for regular democratic dialogue to foster democracy in Nigeria and change negative perceptions of the Nigerian electoral process.
He also enjoined media practitioners to always see themselves as the custodian of market place of ideas, stressing that hate speeches and lies would not benefit anybody on the long run.
The keynote speaker, Prof. Andy Afinotan explained the social responsibility of the media in democratic society and challenges of balancing media-political economy with the social responsibility.
Prof. Afinotan stressed the importance of ethics in the media practices and constant training of the media practitioners on political communication to set the right standard of behaviour and guide to reporting. He noted that without clear understanding of political communication, the output of media regarding politics would always generate tension rather that objectivity and peace as long as the media houses are after the sale of their products in sensational manners.
Afinotan who is a Professor of Political Science at Joseph Ayo Babalola University warned against threat against democracy through biased and false reporting mainly to promote a segment of the political class because of money, ownership, political influence and intimidation.
Another speaker, Oloye Lekan Alabi traced the historical contributions of the media to the development of Nigeria democracy and called on the government to guarantee enabling atmosphere for the media to perform their democratic obligations. He advised media proprietors not to interfere in the professional conduct of the media practitioners.
Oloye Lekan Alabi said the media should be protected from those who want to make use of its services for selfish motives and be made to serve the public good rather than personal gain.
A media expert, Mr. Ade Ayeni lamented that the economic situation in Nigeria is making the practices of journalism more difficult. He noted “ the economy of running the media is very challenging in Nigeria; “before you bear the cost of sustaining the media operations, especially where there is no stable power supply to run the system, take care of the equipment and maintain the statutory expenses, the task of staying afloat is tremendous”.
Mr. Ade Ayeni advised politicians to assist the media to defend and promote democracy because they are the major sources of political news. It is the responsibility to give access to all people in democratic society.
Former Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists in Ekiti State, Mr. Tai Oguntayo expressed the view that the media of any society is always of the society, and advised that it is the Nigerian society that need first to evolve the right and ideal democratic environment which the press will consequently reflect. He prescribed reformation of media laws and code of professional practice to eliminate quacks.
A director in Ondo State Ministry of Information, Mr. Rotimi Olufunmi observed that poor remuneration, inadequate funding and overbearing influence of media ownership have contributed to lack of adherence to ethics in the profession.
Mrs Adeola Adedotun, a broadcaster of the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State emphasized the need to strike a balance between ethics, professionalism and Organizational mission.
Representatives of the Independent National Electoral Commission, National Broadcasting Commission, Women’s Research and Documentation Center (WORDOC) and Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) emphasized close relationship and collaboration between the media and various agencies of governments on democratic development in Nigeria. They commended CAEPOCOM AFRICA for organizing the democratic dialogue at a time when the 2019 general elections is fast approaching. They advised media organizations to show understanding and respect to democratic process despite the challenges.
The Executive Secretary of CAEPOCOM AFRICA Mr Olatunde Fajimbola said the initiative is to promote ethical standards among media practitioners. It is the belief of CAEPOCOM AFRICA that whoever has control of the media, controls the mind of the people and for democracy to work in Nigeria, the media must be voice of the voiceless, assist to right the wrongs in the society instead of usual complain about them.
Mr. Fajimbola also said the resolution is to encourage the media to seek the truth and report it accurately, be constructive and not careless with political communications, never sell the conscience and keep the voice independent of any form of bias.