The proposed Ombudsman system will also help to stave off government’s stifling regulatory moves and attack on free press.
Major media organisations in Nigeria have mapped out a strategy on how to implement a self-regulatory mechanism to check ethical and professional breaches by journalists.
The proposed Ombudsman system will also help to stave off government’s stifling regulatory moves and attack on the media.
The Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN) in conjunction with the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON), and the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP), made the recommendation after a roundtable on 14 November in Lagos.
In a communique issued on Friday, the organisations said the meeting was held in response to “the challenge of institutionalising self-regulatory mechanisms by the media for the media.”
The communique was signed by Kabiru Yusuf, President of NPAN; Mustapha Isah, President of NGE; Chris Isiguzo, President of NUJ, Maureen Chigbo, President GOCOP and Yemisi Bamghose, Executive Secretary, BON.
It expressed concerns over the government’s legislation to stifle “press freedom and media independence.”
In June 2021, the Nigerian government banned the use of Twitter after several failed efforts through parliament to regulate the social media space.
There also bills pending at the National Assembly aimed at helping the government to tighten its grip on the media and stifle press freedom and civic activities.
“The aim of the roundtable, supported by Daria Media and the MacArthur Foundation, was to obtain media stakeholders’ buy-in of the Ombudsman framework and the revised Code of Ethics of Journalists in Nigeria.”
The Nigeria Press Organisation (NPO) comprising the NPAN, NGE and NUJ, was tasked with the development of a framework that promotes “workable and trusted self-regulatory platform for the industry.”
It also noted that the revision of the Code of Ethics for Nigerian journalists was due to observations that the existing 1998 code is “outdated, not robust enough, (and) too general in nature.”
To ensure the ombudsman comes to fruition, the stakeholders warned against bureaucratic structures that might impede its efficient operation.
It resolved that sanctions for violation of ethical codes would be determined by the ombudsman in line with the regulations.
Following widespread lack of regular remuneration of journalists in Nigeria, the stakeholders suggested “a bill of rights would be incorporated into the revised code to address concerns over some industry practices that have the tendency to undermine the welfare and safety of journalists.”
It added that the revised code would “protect investigative journalism by making the public interest exception to instances where undercover methods may be used to obtain information.”
“That the revised code shall distinguish between paid content and editorial content to preserve editorial integrity; and
“A new clause would be inserted to obligate journalists to promote the right of the people to know, freedom of the press and responsibility.”
The roundtable was well attended by eminent media-industry leaders including a former Ogun State governor and former editor, Olusegun Osoba. Mr Osoba, is also a Life Patron of NPAN,
The attendees also included, Sam Amuka-Pemu, Publisher of Vanguard Newspapers; LadMaiden
Alex- Ibru, Publisher of The Guardian; Ray Ekpu, FNGE, former President of NPAN//Council member; and Nduka Obaigbena, former president of NPAN/Life Patron and Publisher, ThisDay Newspapers /proprietor ARISE TV.
They also include Dennis Sami, NPAN Council member and Publisher of The Nigerian Pilot, Angela Emuwa, Chairman of Punch Newspapers, Lade Bonuola, former Managing Director of The Guardian, Ralph Akinfeleye, a professor at the University of Lagos; and Ted Iwere.
The Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Press Council,Francis Nwosu, delivered the goodwill message of the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed.