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Media owners, journalists, stakeholders agree on 41-point code of ethics, co-regulation, Ombudsman
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Media owners, journalists, stakeholders agree on 41-point code of ethics, co-regulation, Ombudsman

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Critical stakeholders in the media industry, yesterday, agreed on a 41-point code of ethics for Nigerian journalists. They also adopted co-regulation instead of a self-regulation mechanism.

Both measures are part of “an attempt to jumpstart a fresh attempt to put in place rules to guide professional conduct and a regulatory council to support the efforts to hold journalists accountable to their publics and deepen public trust in their work.”

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Stakeholders, who took the decisions, yesterday, at a Rountable on “Deepening Media Professionalism Through Co-Regulation,” in Lagos included the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN; Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE; Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ; Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria, BON; Guild of Corporate Online Publishers, GOCOP; and Independent Broadcasters Association of Nigeria, IBAN.

They were backed by veterans of the media industry such as Chairman/Publisher of Vanguard Newspapers, Mr Sam Amuka; former Ogun State Governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba; Mr Ray Ekpu; Mr. Lade Bonuola; Dr Tonnie Iredia (via Zoom); Publisher of ThisDay Newspapers, Prince Nduka Obaigbena; Publisher of The Guardian Newspapers, Mrs. Maiden Ibru; and Chairman of Daiily Trust Newspapers/President of NPAN and Nigeria Press Organisation, NPO, Malam Kabiru Yusuf.

The event was a gathering of who is who in the media industry, in what Chief Osoba described as the best ever gathering of media gurus he has ever seen since he joined the profession in 1964.

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Also at the event were General Manager and Editor-in-Chief of Vanguard Newspapers, Mr. Gbenga Adefaye; NGE President, Mr Mustapha Isah; NUJ President, Mr. Chris Isiguzo; Editor of Vanguard Newspapers, Mr. Eze Anaba; Mr. Richard Akinola, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, Mr. Lanre Idowu, Mrs Kadaria Ahmed, Mr. Feyi Smith, and Mr. Martins Oloja among others.

Specifically, the co-regulatory mechanism adopted will consist of members of the media, civil society and the public sector.

If fully implemented, the co-regulatory framework will stave off strangulating government regulation and render the Nigerian Press Council, NPC, redundant, a development that made the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who was represented by Mr Francis Nwosu, NPC Executive Secretary, to plead with the media stakeholders not to kill the NPC.

Code of conduct, ethics

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The stakeholders noted that: “The Nigerian media has a rich track record of rooting for public welfare and protecting the underdog. That tradition holds that the practice of Journalism should be socially responsive and responsible through the pursuit of a true, fair, decent, and credible account of issues in the public interest.

“Consequently, we freely and willing subscribe to the following ethical principles as germane to the free, fair, and professional practice of journalism in Nigeria, and hold that it is the duty of every journalist to observe its provisions.”

The provisions cover editorial independence, accuracy and fairness, access to information, privacy of individuals, bribery and corruption, public interest, protection of sources of information, plagiarism, decency, protection of children and minors, discrimination, hate speech, violence and conflict sensitivity, gender sensitivity, social responsibility, and bill of rights to cater for security and welfare of journalists.

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The ethics include allowing professional journalists to decide editorial content, and journalists must ensure that the public receive reliable, factual, accurate, balanced and fair reporting. Also, a journalist should not solicit or accept bribe, gratification, or patronage to distort, suppress, or publish information; and a journalist should refrain from using offensive, abusive, or vulgar language, as well as presenting lurid details, in words, sound, or images, of violence, sexual acts, abhorrent, or horrid scenes among others.

The 2022 code of ethics ratified, yesterday, will replace the 1998 Code of ethics for Nigerian journalists.

Media co-regulation, Ombudsman

To end what was dubbed as the government’s strangulating regulation worsened by the infamous Press Council Amendment Bill (2019, which surfaced a public hearing of the Legislature on June 17, 2021, the stakeholders adopted a co-regulation, which will incorporate the public in place of self-regulation. This is expected to reduce distrust and deepen public confidence.

According to them, one of the angst of the media against the Nigerian Press Council is the fact that a majority of its members are either appointed by the minister or the president, a situation that does not conduce for trust among media professionals.

Thus, the media gurus adopted a two-tier system of Ombudsman mechanism: Local or Zonal Ombudsman; and Industry-wide Ombudsman.

The organs of the Industry-wide Ombudsman are Appointment panel; Board, Complaints Committee; Independent Reviewer; and Executive Director.

Essentially, the Ombudsman will handle complaints.

A person may complain about any article in a newspaper or magazine published in Nigeria or broadcast on a terrestrial platform or radio and television as well as well as online (on the internet) he or she believes directly affects or involves him or her unfairly. A person may also complain about the conduct of a journalist if he or she believes that the conduct directly or involves him or her unfairly.

Sanctions against erring newspaper, publisher, journalist

After investigation and due actions on a complaint, “if the Ombudsman upholds the complaint, the publication concerned will be obliged to publish the decision in full, and with reasonable prominence, within seven days of the ruling being delivered to it. All NPAN members shall be obliged to publish an abstract of the ruling produced by the Ombudsman after seven days but not later than 21 days of the delivery of the ruling to the publication.

“Where the Ombudsman determines that a particular ruling affects the fundamental rights of the parties involved or is of importance to journalism practice and/or the publishing industry, then the ruling shall be published by the publication involved and by all members of NPAN. This provision is necessary to ensure that only very important cases are published.”

Don’t kill NPC

Pleading for the survival of the NPC, Mr Francis Nwosu, said efforts are being made to ensure that past issues that brought the NPC and the media industry at loggerhead do not happen.

Rather than killing the NPC, he said “we need to build strong institutions including the press”. According to him the NPC has 19 members including four each from the NGE and NUJ and two from NPAN are nominated by their various organisations and not appointed by the government or minister.

‘’It is good we strengthen the media industry. The NPC is not to gag the press. We have been doing good interventions to save the polity. We should not throw the baby away with the bath water. In whatever we do, let’s give the press council a chance.’’

(Vanguard)


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