Stakeholders in the media industry have attributed the difficulties and frustration faced by journalists and media workers in the fight against corruption to the deliberate efforts by politicians and government targeted at reducing the power of journalists in the society.
This position was unanimously arrived at during a special town hall meeting against corruption, organized by Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG, with the support of MacArthur Foundation on Thursday in Abuja.
The well attended event was used to situate the media in its place in the fight against corruption, and address the challenges of upholding integrity by professionals in the media trade. As well as celebrate the virtues of the WINNER of 2018 INTEGRITY ICON AWARDS, BUKOLA ADEWUNMI, an Investigative journalist working with NEWS AGENCY OF NIGERIA (NAN).
In his submission, the President of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Christopher Isiguzo said one of the major challenges facing the media profession in the country is deliberate infiltration by politicians who are now owners of several media houses and outfits.
According to him, “these politicians have reasons why they set up their platforms, while the practitioners or journalists have their own idea, and when there is a clash of interest, oftentimes, the interest of the owner takes pre-eminence and that is a problem.”
Isiguzo also pointed out that besides political influence, journalists are poorly remunerated, poorly equipped, and lack health insurance schemes.
In a similar vein, NUJ Chairman, Abuja Council, Emmanuel Ogbeche lamented that there is a conspiracy by politicians and elites to economically impoverish and undermine journalists and media due to the power it wields.
The poor state of affairs has made it impossible for journalists to function more effectively in their resistance and reportage of corruption, he said.
His words:” Without making excuses for myself and colleagues, I think society has conspired to institute poverty in the media because politicians and elites understand the power of the media, the conspiracy is let there be economic poverty. If we impoverish the journalist, then we can undermine the system and bring them in as collaborators in weakly our democracy and instituting corruption and getting away with the abuse of rule of law.”
He advocated for legislation on the remuneration of journalists, stressing that the likes of Bukola Adewunmi will always be in short supply if the media space continues to operate in a way that the economic wellbeing of journalists are not guaranteed.
In his intervention on the challenge of journalists in fighting corruption, the Director General, Daily Trust Foundation, Dr Theophilus Abah faulted all arms of government for their silence on several corruption reports churned out on a daily basis by media houses.
His words: “The people in authority are not interested in what you do, they are not interested in accountability and transparency and that is a major problem.
“In investigative report, one of the problems we face is that, after we struggle and gone around to gather all we need to publish our story, you expect the National Assembly, and anti-graft agencies to take it up, unfortunately nobody will do anything,” Dr Abah lamented
While, the Editor at the International Centre for Investigative reporting (ICIR), Hamzat Ajibola, added” in the last two months, ICIR has sent two hundred different FOI requests to government agencies asking them to provide details of their capital spending between 2015 and now, but the response we have got is less than 20%.
“As an investigative journalist, the material of your work is the evidence and cannot be manufactured. Every side you go to you have a brick wall which is a serious challenge that faces the media,” Ajibola said.
Lending her voice to the issue, the Head of News at 99.9 Kiss FM Abuja, Ayoade Olatokewa, stated that the foundation molds a journalist’s morality, integrity and discipline. She said many media practitioners have had diversify to other legitimate means of income in order to avoid the brown envelope syndrome.
“The terrain we find ourselves as journalists in Nigeria is far different out there, you need to do something to support your job if you want to pay bills,” she said.
Meanwhile, earlier in the program, Bukola Adewunmi revealed that she has continued to enjoy the respect of people around her after winning the 2018 Integrity Icon Award organized by Accountability Lab Nigeria.
Speaking on phone from Lagos, Adewunmi said: “It has been a very good story to tell. With the name “Integrity Icon”, everybody looks up to you and I have encountered a lot of people who say “I wish I could be like you.”
The PRIMORG’S Radio Town Hall Against Corruption series is supported by the MacArthur Foundation.