The Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, on Thursday renewed his call for reforms in the media to protect practitioners from negative ownership influence that often inhibits objectivity and fairness in news reportage.
Maku made the call while speaking at a public lecture organised as part of activities to mark the 80th birthday of former Managing Director of Champion Newspaper, Henry Odukomaiya.
He said that the level of professionalism that distinguished the Nigerian media practitioners in the past was fast being eroded by the overbearing influence of most media proprietors in the country.
He said that objective and unbiased style of reporting, which manifested in the quality of stories and articles found in the media in the past, had faded out as a result of the negative trend.
He said: “I want to agree totally with the opinion expressed by the guest lecturer about the posture and position of journalism practice in our country today.
“The depth and quality that we used to see in some of the reports in our newspapers have all gone;.
“Today, you see reports that lack objectivity and analysis that lack depth.
“Ownership influence have taken over the position of everything that is done in most of our newspaper organisations.
“I tell you, today if you can pick a newspaper, you can easily tell which political party it supports or which party the owner belongs to.
“This is sad because it is affecting the development of the profession.
“Today, professionalism is at its lowest.
“So leaders in this profession must pursue strong reforms that will rescue the sector.”
Maku suggested that strong leadership in the journalism profession was needed to reposition the sector and prevent a total collapse of ethics in the profession.
He said that strong guidelines must be enforced in the sector to protect practitioners from victimisation by highly placed individuals in the society or the owners of the media.
Maku said that the use of the media to mislead society and promote the interest of a few was a dysfunctional role of the media that must be stopped by stakeholders in the sector.
He said that practitioners in the sector must focus on hard work, objectivity, fairness and humility to help promote harmony in the society.
Earlier, the guest lecturer, Prof. Pat Utomi, blamed the collapse of culture and values for the negative precedence set by the media in the ongoing fight against insurgency.
Utomi, who spoke on: “Media and culture,” said the collapse of cultural values and the prevalence of corruption in Nigeria had adversely affected media professionalism.
He said that the poor handling of the present security challenge by the media was one of the most glaring signs of eroding professionalism in the Nigerian media.
He said that the influence of the media on society could not be questioned but that practitioners must rise to the challenge of directing society towards the path of prosperity.
On his part, the celebrant, Odukamaiya, said that journalism in Nigeria was passing through turbulent times and advised journalists to strive to rescue the profession from the hands of quacks.
He said journalists could make their mark by upholding the virtues of honesty, humility and truthfulness at all times, noting that integrity in the journalism profession could be redeemed by doing the right things.
Odukamaiya expressed optimism that the present phase of challenges would be overcome by practitioners in the sector.
A church service was earlier held at the Archbishop Vining Memorial Church Cathedral, Ikeja.