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Financial independence, investigation, fact checking, only guarantees for media survival – Prof Pate

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A professor of journalism from Bayero university Kano, Umaru Pate has disclosed that the only way the media can survive in Africa’s contemporary clime is by embracing investigative journalism, mainstream fact checking, adopting self sustaining economic measures and sustaining editorial independence.

Pate who made the disclosure during a press briefing for virtual launch of African Media Barometer (AMB) on June 2, praised the consistent release of the AMB, noting that it has made significant contributions in documenting the dynamic story of the media in recent times.

” AMB has continuously documented
the dynamic story of the media in recent times with the 2019 edition significantly highlighting the progress of the media in imbibing evolving media technologies and emerging challenges that impinge
on the credibility, sustainability and safety of the media in the country.

” It is clear that media organizations have to wake up and promote investigative journalism, mainstream fact checking actions and adopt self-sustaining economic mechanisms to safeguard their survival, safety of
staff and guard editorial independence,” Pate who is the reviewer of the AMB discussion said.

The African Media Barometer (AMB), an in-depth description and measurement system for national media environments on the African continent, is a self-assessment exercise based on home-grown criteria derived from African Protocols and Declarations such as the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa (2002) by the African Commission for
Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The instrument was jointly developed by Fesmedia Africa, the media project of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) in Africa, and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) in 2004.

In its recent report, AMB held that though the enactment of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act was pivotal to the
evolution of the Nigerian media landscape, its implementation faces resistance from some authorities,
especially those in the defence forces.

It stressed that while journalists still come under pressure to give up their sources, the protection of journalistic sources is increasingly recognised as a fundamental principle in a democratic society.

The 2019 AMB Nigeria found that while the government uses its advertising power to influence editorial content as some state houses keep lists of friendly and hostile media, the size of the advertising market is too small to sustain the industry.

On broadcasting, it observed that broadcasting legislation has produced a conducive environment for (Three-tier
public, commercial and community)
broadcasting though the licensing processes were riddled with political interference revealing that the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission which regulates the sector is seen as lacking independence from government and political forces.

The four-yearly report noted that the plan to criminalise hate speech in Nigeria is seen as a disguised attempt to clampdown on the right to freedom of expression.

In his welcome address, the Resident Representative of the FES Nigeria, Mr. Ulrich Thum, said the African Media Barometer identifies and analyses the shortcomings and best practices in the legal as well as practical media environment using a variety of African documents as a benchmark adding that
the AMB can serve as a tool to lobby for media reform.

He invited all participants to share the
document and use it for various media and advocacy work while striving for a better, freer, and more inclusive Media landscape.

He stressed that such an environment ideally allows the media and journalists–side by side with an independent Legislature, Executive and Judiciary- to act as an independent fourth pillar of society.

In their remarks, the discussants of the AMB review, Ms. AderonkeIge, a Humanitarian Lawyer and Martins Onoja, a seasoned editor of the Guardian Newspaper, summarized that “beyond legal limitations, citizens and journalists in Nigeria are still unable to exercise freedom of expression without fear, no thanks to the culture of intimidation through harassment by public authorities. Criminal libel,
cyber stalking among other restrictive laws are still in place despite FOI Act since 2011”.

They noted that the AMB is conclusive that the government still does not respect regional and international
instruments that guarantee these rights at issue.

The discussants however pointed to some positive developments in the sector saying that the quantitative expansion of the broadcasting sector, particularly community broadcasting as a result of digitisation, brings greater opportunities for the expansion of the value chain in broadcasting and
content diversity.

“The growth of people power and the role of the media in amplifying this is improving the conditions for democratisation”, they added.

The launch, which was moderated by the Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda, Edetean Ojo, featured media experts, civil society organizations, youths, and other stakeholders.

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