Catholic media practitioners have been urged to be at the vanguard of responsible reportage especially in the dissemination of information during crisis period and other issues that border on violence, security and protection of the unity and integrity of the country.
This admonition was contained in the resolutions adopted at the recently concluded meeting of the Association of Diocesan/Religious Directors of Communications of the Catholic Church in the country; held at the Pinnacle Hotel, Sokoto, Sokoto State. The statement was signed by Very Rev. Fr. Pius Ukor and Sr. Eunice Olusola Ikufisile, OSF, National President and Secretary of the association, respectively.
The meeting with the theme: Media Ethics, A Necessary Tool for Reporting Violence in Nigeria; was attended by over thirty members of the association from different parts of the country and a delegation of the Directorate of the Social Communications, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN); led by the director, Rev. Fr. Chris Anyanwu.
The directors, after deliberating on the theme of the 2017 World Day of Communications Day message of the Holy Father, Pope Francis titled: "Fear Not, for I am with you (Is 43:3): Communicating Hope and Trust in our Time" and presentations by different speakers on the roles and expectations of Nigerian media men on reportage of violence in the country, resolved that; “As game-changers in a society that is saturated with the sights and sounds of violence in the news; there is need for on-going formation for media workers in the country “on the rudiments of objective reportage in such a manner that insurgency is not glorified above the unity and integrity of the nation”.
They added that the presentations of the workshop which centred on: the Challenges of Children in Crisis Zones, the Ethics of Media Reporting in Conflict Zones and Gender Issues in Conflicts in Nigeria,; made them to be “better informed to push the frontiers of responsible reportage as Catholic Diocesan and Religious Directors of Communications in Nigeria”.
Other decisions taken by the participants included the need for Government Regulatory bodies to ensure responsible reportage in Nigeria and at the same time ensure responsible information-sharing among the citizenry; and that “Objectivity and the advancement of truth are crucial to peace and social development of any society”. Therefore, media practitioners and all stakeholders must ensure fairness in their information dissemination.
The directors noted that women are the worst victims of all violence and crisis situations and that in spite of “their great contribution to the economy they are not allowed to take charge”. They added: “For the status quo to change, there must be education and empowerment as well as legislation and enforcement of laws protecting women by the government and relevant institutions
On the issue of challenges faced by children in crises zones, the directors encouraged Archdioceses and dioceses in the country to facilitate a Child Protection Act or Policy while government was advised to partner with the United Nations in confronting challenges faced by children in crisis zones. They also added that the State and the Church should partner to further confront the stereotype of women and children especially, IDPs, refugees, and Child Soldiers in Nigeria.
The directors also called on the proprietors of media organisations to rise up to their responsibilities of paying their employees as media workers as at when due; while Catholic journalists were urged to resist the brown-envelope syndrome in consonance with the ethics of the profession and to sustain the integrity of the profession.
The directors expressed gratitude to all who facilitated their meeting to make it a huge success; especially the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah who brought a dimension to the hosting of the directors plenary by making it more educative and professionally challenging. They also commended the diocesan Communications Director, Rev. Fr. Sixtus Onuh and his team for making the meeting the success that it was.
In his keynote address at the opening ceremony, the Director General, Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Mallam Ishaq Kawu described the media as a valuable agent for the dousing of violence in the society, particularly in a multi tribe and multi-religious country like Nigeria. The address, delivered on his behalf by Dr Armstrong Idachaba noted that the media in its coverage of crisis or violence should be sensitive and objective with consideration for the integrity and unity of the country. The special guest outlined the challenges and problems of reporting violence in a country like Nigeria and outlined how the media can be responsible in this perspective.
Other speakers at the seminar session included: Mallam Nasir Danladi Bako who gave a reflection on Information Management in a Crisis Situation; Ms Vanessa Offiong, Line Editor/Senior Reporter, Media Trust Ltd (Daily Trust) who delivered a paper on Stolen Childhood: The Challenges of Children in Conflict Zones and Rev. Fr. Joseph Faniran, Vice Rector and Dean of Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Catholic Institute for West Africa (CIWA), Port Harcourt; whose presentation was premised on: The Ethics of Media Reporting in Conflict zones of Nigeria.