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Published On: Wed, Apr 30th, 2014

The media in West Africa and the strugle for freedom and ethical conducts

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NewsBy Evelyn Okakwu

The safety of journalists is an undeniable necessary prerequisite for the successful dissemination of information in any society especially in a democratic setting.

All over the world journalists are often prone to various forms of violence and more often than not, these journalists either have to face the threats squarely by themselves or suffer the consequence alone.

Yet still the safety of any society is directly proportional to the rate of freedom provided for journalists.

When people can be certain that the media will be objective in protecting their interests and serving as an active voice, they are motivated to participate actively in the polity and prevent the anarchy that can come from the involvement of only a few set in the leadership of the whole nation.

In Africa, the media has contributed immensely towards ensuring the steady development of the continent. The role of the media in all parts of Africa has created for the super power countries of the world, a special interest in this continent, such that the place of the media in its continued growth becomes indispensable.

This is why the West Africa Journalists Association (WAJA) during its 8th ordinary congress, recently held in Abuja, decided to make the theme of the congress: “Strengthening Media for Peace, Security and

Democratic Governance in West Africa.”

The theme sort to make critical analyses of the various factors constituting the week points of journalists in West art of Africa, to analyze their various challenges and proffer lasting solution, in a view to improve media ;productivity in Africa.

Addressing journalists at the start of the congress, the regional Director WAJA for the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Mr. David Ronal Kayanja called on the ‘would be’ elected WAJA executives to take the safety of journalists as a matter of priority.

Hew noted that during the course of discharging their duties last year, 92 journalist across the world lost their lives and in this year, already 31 Journalists have lost their lives on the line of duty.

“Journalist are prone to high risk situations as a result of their work The media is the voice of the people. The only means through which they participate actively in the government is through the chmedia which serves a very important tool as the voice of the people. Thus the safety of media practitioners is of great interest to UNESCO and that is why we use this opportunity to call for the safety of media workers in West Africa.”

Also speaking at the event, Nigeria’s Minister of information, Labaran Maku Had this to say: “In any society, especially, in a Democracy, media plays a very important role. This is why the media is regarded as the fourth estate of the realm. Although the fourth estate as they call us constitutes a set of nonelected people, we function sometimes even more than, some elected realms in the polity. The media is the platform that enables Democracy to thrive. The people are so crucial in any Democracy, and the media is the only platform through which they can play their own part in the administration of their own state.”

He noted that the media in Nigeria was established by nationalists like Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo, among others. Speaking further, he added that since independence till date, the media in Nigeria has not been able to be overtaken by the fear of intimidation.

“The country, as it is today has absolutely no plan to harass or intimidate media workers within Nigeria”. Part of the example to support that he, he stated, is the freedom of information act passed into law on the 28th of May 2013, adding that the government is planning to use that law. And other measures to ensure the free dissemination of information for the good of all.”

Speaking further he adds: “The difference, between a dictatorship and a free Democracy is the presence of a free media and the parliament: these two factors are absent in a dictatorship system of government”.

He stated But the media in Nigeria, like all other free media across the world has its own headache, as the Minister noted: “You can lose one or two people from a bad Dr or medical practitioner, but you will lose a whole nation from a bad media seeking to propagate hate. Lack of control is evident greatly in the way we report terrorism, economic political and other issues in the country. There is the need for the Media associations to organise a mechanism for the enforcement of professional media ethics in the line of duty. This is the channel for growth that is required of the media, both in Africa and in the world at large. Terrorism like a endemic has no boundaries. The problem of terrorism will spread to other continents if nothing is done to curb the situation.

The freedom of the media may be problematic, but it’s a welcome development, because the collective wisdom of the people is better than a single man rule.

The media is the only tool that can stand in defense of a threatened democracy”. He stated.

He however called on media practitioners to free themselves from the activities of politicians. “Nothing stops a politician from owning a media. But in an election time, a politician can become anxious and willing to use the media to achieve his all important objectives.” He stressed He called on the media to educate the people on how to avoid terrorism, but adopt a measure of controlling terrorism, by reducing the rate of attention it gives terrorist activities. “You should report terrorism activities, but know that these terrorists seek attention at all cost and as such what you should do is to reduce the rate of attention you give their activities and see if that will produce a different response, from the terrorists”.

One of the delegates from Liberia Jallah Grayfield says he was sacked by his media organization, where he had served as the head for about five years. “I was the head of this media empire, which produced both radio TV and prints publications: the owner of the media was on sanction for 20 years because he was an working with former president Tailor but about few weeks before the removal of his sanction, he started trying to manipulate the press to do certain things that are unethical. And been the vice president of the Liberia Journalist Union I could not allow that. Even if I was not the vice president, I just could not allow such an unethical practice.

So his daughter who was the CEO of the organization, though I was the manager, felt that I was a growing insubordination who could not carry out their orders. And as such they had me dismissed”.

He said that the media indeed needs to be regulated but the regulation should come from the within the media and not from an external force Like the government.

“The media can be regulated by a body formed by itself, not by the government to prevent intimidation. It is very necessary for media organisations to have a channel through which ethical publication or dissemination of information is encouraged. If the media has such a body, the activities of organisations like the one I worked with before four months ago, will be checked.

It is the hope of Nigerians that these pressing issues will top the agenda of the new executive of WAJA and indeed all other media organisations across the world.

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