COMMUNIQUE ON THE TWO-DAY WORKSHOP ON ‘CONFLICTS AND CRISES REPORTING’ ORGANIZED BY THE NIGERIAN PRESS COUNCIL WITH THE SUPPORT OF AKWA IBOM STATE GOVERNMENT, HELD AT ENTRY POINT HOTEL AND SUITES, UYO, AKWA IBOM STATE, OCTOBER 3 – 4, 2013.
A two day sensitization Workshop on Conflicts and Crises Reporting was held in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, from Thursday, October 3 to Friday, October 4, 2013.
The objective of the workshop was to provide an interactive platform where journalists would be guided and sensitized on their professional responsibility in reporting issues that could become potential sources of conflict, escalate tension or constitute a threat to the corporate existence of the country, particularly in the face of the current security challenges.
The workshop was organized by the Nigerian Press Council (NPC), with the support of the Akwa Ibom State Government in continuation of the Council’s objective of carrying out a nation-wide sensitization for journalists on Conflicts and Crises Reporting and to emphasize the need for them to realise the importance of conflict-sensitive journalism.
It was attended by 102 participants – journalists drawn from the six South-South states of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers; Public Information Managers, Federal and State Government officials, Civil Rights Groups, Office of the National Security Adviser and non-governmental organisations, among others.
The Honourable Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mr. Aniekan Umanah, who declared the workshop open, underscored the support of the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, H. E. (Dr.) Godswill Akpabio, who he said agreed to partner with the NPC in the organisation of the forum because he was highly impressed with its theme which he considered germane to the Nigerian society, particularly in view of the prevalence of conflicts/crises in different parts of the country.
He recognized the need to resolve the internal conflict between the media and the security agencies, stressing the urgency for mutual understanding and co-operation between the two parties. He hoped that discussions at the sessions would help stabilize the system and urged participants to strive towards more responsible reportage of issues that would douse rather than escalate crisis situations. He urged journalists to concentrate on issues that would stabilize the polity and de-emphasize concentration of reportage of issues relating to the 2015 elections.
The Chairman of the Akwa Ibom State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Mr. Patrick Albert, in his goodwill message, expressed appreciation to the Hon. Commissioner for his well-thought-out and informed message and the Nigerian Press Council for the timely organisation of the workshop with its crucial theme.
Presentations and discussions embraced such themes as the Role of the Media in Identifying and Reporting Potential Sources of Conflicts; Balancing the Maxim of “Facts are Sacred, Comment is Free” and Social Responsibility in Reporting Crises; Post Conflict Reporting in a Multi-ethnic and Diverse Society; Journalism Code of Ethics and Social Responsibility as Parameters for Reporting Crises; Conventional Media, Social Media and Mediated Crises in the Context of Social Responsibility, among others.
The forum was informed that the Office of the National Security Adviser was leveraging to ensure a better relationship between the security agencies and the Press because it understood and appreciated the need for such a vital relationship, particularly given the current insurgency in parts of Nigeria.
After insightful presentations, observations and discussions, the workshop recommended as follow:
The 5Ws and H should be contextualized for the practice of journalism with the current challenge of the social media.
- The media should refrain from promoting prejudicial stereotypes about groups and individuals through selective reporting not supported by facts and figures. The media should interact more with all interest groups, individuals and stakeholders so that no opinion or interest is marginalised.
- The media as a whole should be pluralistic and reflect the diversity of their society, giving access to various points of view and the right to reply.
- The media, as the key stakeholder and purveyor of information, should contribute to the maintenance of peace and reconciliation in the country by reporting conflicts and crises within the context of the Code of Ethics based on credible, factual, balanced and objective reporting.
- The journalist should observe professional integrity regarding the source of information obtained in confidence.
- Terrorism is a crime and should be reported as such. Journalists should endeavour to use technically-correct identifiers as terrorists will want their adversary described in negative terms and themselves in positive terms such as ‘freedom fighters’.
- Journalists should avoid unintended complicity with terrorists by publishing seemingly innocuous footages that could contain messages for their operatives on the field and constitute fear appeals.
- Journalists should avoid promoting terrorists’ or sectarian objectives as such can give them legitimacy.
- Sensational reporting on sensitive issues that involve loss of lives should be avoided as much as possible, so as not to unwittingly transfer the crisis from the streets into homes causing unnecessary agitation.
- The practice of journalism should be in the overall interest of the operating environment. Journalists should, therefore, engage in balanced reporting with the objective of peaceful resolution and focus on activities that will diffuse tension rather than escalate it.
- Journalists should be able to detect potential sources of crisis and evaluate what could incite violence while striving to maintain a balance between the public’s right to know and the kind of information that could hurt the public psyche and constitute a threat to national security.
- The media should be able to help society identify potential sources of conflicts by studying their operational environment.
Some of the likely sources of conflict and conflict drivers include ethnicism and ethnic rivalries; electoral fraud, lack of transparency and accountability, monopoly of power by a group and lack of internal democracy in socio-political organisations, among others.
- The media should not just report conflicts and their sources; they must place each event within context and be guided by the social responsibility principle of the media.
- Journalists should adopt the proactive measure of self-regulation to avoid government interference and censorship. Reports should be subject to self-imposed restraints within the framework of the law and should be devoid of personal opinions and sentiments.
- There should be better remuneration, insurance and other welfare incentives for journalists.
- There should be training and re-training of journalists, particularly on methods, techniques and parameters for understanding, identifying and reporting sources of conflicts and crises.
- There is need for the security agencies to have guidelines on ethical conduct for their operatives to promote healthy relationships with the media.
- There is need for synergy and better working relationships between the Media and Security agencies as partners in conflict management.
M. ’Bayo Atoyebi Patrick Albert
Executive Secretary Chairman,
Nigerian Press Council NUJ, Akwa Ibom State Council