The Nigerian Press Council has called on journalists to ensure accuracy in their reportage in order to repose confidence and integrity in the profession.
The Executive Secretary of NPC, Francis Nwosu, made the call while declaring open a one-day training on “Journalism: Ethical Challenges in the COVID-19 Era” on Thursday in Abuja.
The programme was sponsored by NPC and hosted by Nigeria Union of Journalism (NUJ), Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Council.
Nwosu said NPC would continue to support initiatives aimed at ensuring high ethical standards and greater confidence in the media.
“Today, the whole world is going through perilous times occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic with challenging impact on journalists among the frontline workers.
“Our role as media practitioners and purveyors of information is critical at this time of our nation’s history.
“Therefore, I urge journalists to ensure that accurate information is disseminated to the general public because it reduces risk and help save lives,” Nwosu said.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Nwosu was represented at the event by the Director of Finance and Accounts in NPC, Mr David Adenike.
Also speaking, Buki Ponle, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of NAN, said the COVID-19 pandemic era was not the best of times for the journalism profession.
Ponle, however, said that ethical consideration for journalists should revolve around seeking the truth by providing a fair and comprehensive account of events or issues.
He said principles of ethical journalism that should guide a reporter include ensuring truth and accuracy, independence, fairness and impartiality, accountability as well as confidentiality of sources.
“But has the average Nigerian journalist and media outlet live up to these moral high ground? The answer would be a resounding NO!
“The Brown Envelope syndrome has assumed a larger than life image permeating every aspect of our professional life.
“With many media houses owing their journalists unpaid wages for months unending, their identification card has become the only meal tickets they have to make ends meet.
” But even more dangerous and insidious is the increasing incidence of fake news now rife in both traditional and social media.
” As I have often said, the social media in particular has become a clear and present danger to the Nigerian polity. With the advent of citizen journalism, anyone with a smartphone can disseminate any information, true or false, from the confines of the living room.
” No incident has exemplified this deplorable development as the recent #EndSARS violence which raged in some parts of the country for about two weeks and in which 57 civilians as well as six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed, 196 policemen injured, 164 police vehicles destroyed and 134 police stations razed,” he said.
Ponle also said it was regrettable that some traditional and international media outlets source stories from unverified social media reports.
” It is also important to note that observing ethics is no longer a canon for some of the international news outlets given the less than edifying role played by the Cable News Network (CNN) in its reportage of the Lekki Toll Gate incident in which it dubiously kept changing its narratives and “casualty” figures.
” Relying on footages that had made the rounds of the social media in an exercise it called “exclusive investigative report,” CNN embarked on a jaundiced rehash of unverified social media reports without bothering to ensure balance by speaking with the authorities, ” he said.
Ponle, who was represented at the event by his Special Assistant, Mufutau Ojo, urged journalists to be professional in the discharge of their responsibilities while observing their code of ethics.
Speaking earlier, the President of NUJ, Chris Iziguzo, had called on the government and media owners to provide better welfare package for their employees.
According to him, such welfare package will go a long way to ensure compliance with the ethics of the profession.
He said the COVID-19 pandemic came with a lot challenges for journalists.
“During the early part of COVID-19 pandemic in the country, a lot of journalists lost their jobs while some were given an option of freelancing and some had huge cut in salaries.
“In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigerian journalists lived up to expectations in their jobs but remained the least paid in the world.
“However, ethical journalism should be concerned with building good governance, democracy and development. I am optimistic that we will get over COVID-19.
“With countries like Russia, USA, China and Nigeria trying to come up with effective vaccines against COVID-19, it would soon be over,” Iziguzo said.
Similarly, the Chairman of NUJ, FCT Council, Emmanuel Ogbeche, said COVID-19 was not the first pandemic in Nigeria, citing ebola.
“We have overcome pandemics in this country before and we shall overcome the COVID-19 as well.
“I appreciate NPC for this training and I hope it would bring out the best in our journalists,” Ogbeche said.
NAN reports that no fewer than 17 journalists participated in the training.