The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has called on media professionals to be ‘conflict-sensitive’ in reporting cases of insecurity across the country.
This, it said, is because insecurity takes a huge toll on societal life and posts negative development indices in several areas.
The NGE made this call at the end of its conference in Abuja.
The two-day conference with the theme: “Media In Times of Crises: Resolving Conflict, Achieving Consensus,” was held between 21 and 22 October.
In a statement jointly signed by the NGE President, Mustapha Isah, and the General Secretary, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, the conference expressed worries that some editors and media professionals “seem to have taken sides in the raging crises”.
The conference made the observation barely a week after President Muhammadu Buhari urged the media to address the “tone, content, and standards of reporting into security and safety measures”.
This comes on the heels of raging insecurity across the country with killings and kidnappings thriving in almost every state.
Mr Buhari had asked that the term “rising insecurity” be replaced with the “reality of declining insecurity” despite proof of increasing cases of attacks reported daily.
The NGE sought a healthy and harmonious collaboration between the media and the security agencies in the fight against insecurity across the country.
It said peace and development, which are germane to further advancement of Nigeria, cannot thrive in times of crises and that governments at all levels have a huge responsibility to defend, protect and provide for its citizens.
The prevalent insecurity challenges, which have seen terrorists, bandits, armed herdsmen and other criminal elements holding the nation to ransom and threatening its survival and development, have the potential of tearing the country to shreds, it said.
It also added that “journalists and security agents who are first-line responders to every flashpoint appear locked in mutual suspicion.”
The conference, therefore, resolved that ‘’Governments at all levels have a responsibility to defend, protect and provide for their citizens. That agitations for self-determination, which are raging in the South-east, South-west and the South-south regions do not augur well for the unity of the country;
‘’An end to the raging insecurity so that citizens can conduct their normal lives in an atmosphere of peace and concord and the need for healthy and harmonious collaboration between the media and the security agencies in the fight against insecurity.
‘’There is a need for security agents to appreciate the role of journalists and media professionals and refrain from anything that will abridge it.”
This, the editors noted, is majorly because journalists are oftentimes impaired and harassed by security agents from carrying out their professional responsibilities.
Editors and other media professionals were urged to ensure that they are conflict-sensitive and not publish stories capable of inflaming ethnic, regional and religious passion.
The conference also stressed the need to tackle the monster of misinformation and sanitise the media against unprofessional and unethical behaviour.
The government was also asked to support the survival of the media as part of the task of building the nation’s democracy, avoid acts that will put the media in chains, confront issues that have given rise to the demands of the different self-determination groups and deal with the different sections of the country on the basis of fairness, equity and justice.
‘’There is a need for the government to ensure that its policies and actions are sensitive to the multi-ethnic and religious makeup of the country. The government needs to commit more resources to education, healthcare and tackle the rising costs of food and other social services,’’ part of the statement read.
The conference attended, by 350 editors, security chiefs, and other participants was chaired by a journalist, Ray Ekpu, with Group Managing Director, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari, as Special Guest of Honour, and President, Newspapers Proprietors of Nigeria (NPAN), Kabiru Yusuf, as Guest of Honour.
The conference also featured other guests, including, Yahaya Bello, Governor of Kogi State; Nasir El Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, represented by the Special Adviser on Inter-Governmental Affairs, Hannatu Dalhat; and Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun represented by his Deputy Chief of Staff, Abdullah Binuyo.
Other guests included Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, who was represented by Frank Mba, the spokesperson of the Force; Director-General of the State Security Service, Yusuf Bichi represented by its Spokesperson, Peter Afunanya; and Director-General, Nigerian Intelligence Agency, (NIA), Ahmed Abubakar represented by a director, Emma Anzaku.
The Managing Director/CEO, Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System For Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), Aliyu Abdulhameed, Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Umar Danbatta; Publisher of Premium Times, Dapo Olorunyomi and Editor-in-Chief of the Leadership Newspapers, Azubike Ishiekwene, were also parts of the conversation.
Another highlight of the conference was the unveiling of the book chronicling 60 years of the Nigerian Guild of Editors titled, “Uneven Steps: The Story Of The Nigerian Guild of Editors” authored by Lanre Idowu.
The book was reviewed by Akpandem James.
The conference was rounded off with a 60th Anniversary Dinner, which featured the induction of eight new Fellows and 13 new members.