The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) of the umbrella group all for Editors in Nigeria has said that an enabling political and economic environment for the media to discharge their constitutional and social responsibilities is essential in guaranteeing and sustaining democratic space, sustainable development, providing incentives for social/democratic change, advocating respect for human rights, shaping development policies and overseeing their implementation.
The Guild, which stated this in a communique issued and signed by Mr. Mustapha Isah and Iyobosa Uwugiaren, the President and the General Secretary respectively, at the end of its 2021 Biennial Convention in Kano, called on the federal government to, as a matter of urgency, expunge, repeal or amend as may be appropriate, all existing obnoxious media laws in the country that are inimical to press freedom. While also urging editors and journalists to continue to subscribe to and uphold the journalism code of ethics – as developed by the Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO).
‘’The Guild observes the need for the Nigerian mass media to exercise their freedom to operate freely with a sense of responsibility. And considering the spikes in the levels of insecurity across the length and breadth of the country, it is high time for the media to set the agenda and lead the country’s drive to sustaining national cohesion.
‘’While observing Nigeria’s consistent deterioration in the Global Press Freedom Index since 2005, the Guild notes that it is worrisome that the slide is happening in a democracy, whereby the Guild has had cause in recent times to issue three press statements on the threats of closure and imposition of fines on some broadcast stations by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC)’’, the communique added.
The NGE strongly condemned the harassment and arrest of vendors in the South East for selling newspapers that carry story on agitators, describing the action as a subtle way of emasculating newspaper and put newspaper companies out of business as vendors may stop accepting and selling their publications.
The Guild noted the huge disruption the COVID-19 pandemic has created globally, saying that the disruption has also had negative effects on the Nigerian media industry, leading to significant drop in the media businesses’ revenues.
‘’For the media to respond to these challenges creatively, there is urgent need for the media managers to evolve diversification, designing of a dynamic management system, producing innovative contents, restructuring their production technologies and adapting new funding and business models.
‘’Considering that the role of information dissemination by the mass media is an essential public and social service, the Guild calls on government to consider mitigating the media’s operational costs and economic challenges by floating a national media subsidy regime, including tax holidays and waivers, lifting of license fees for the broadcast media and offsetting debts of government media agencies in the country’’, the Guild stated.
The Guild’s national convention, which attracted over 300 editors and media owners across the country also expressed concern over the prevalence and massive elevation of fake news, disinformation and propaganda due to the mishandlings of the social media platforms by negative persons.
The Guild therefore harped on the need for Nigeria’s media publics, particularly the youth whom the media must carry along, to use, decipher and rely on the conventional media for reliable and credible information in taking their decisions.
The safety of journalists also attracted the attention of the editors, calling on both the public and the private media operators to lift the media out of the current dangers by devising measures inclusive of guaranteed welfare and insurance schemes for the safety and security of journalists working for them.
The communique added, ‘’Against the backdrop of the assailing new media trends, the Guild highlights the essence of training and retraining of the Nigerian journalists to update their knowledge, skills and expertise of the profession – with a view to attaining the needed proficiency and competencies that are required to overcome the new media drifts that dragging journalism profession.’’
While commending Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State for keeping the state safe even in the midst of the prevailing insecurity in some parts of the country, the editors also appreciated the state government’s phenomenal drive of infrastructure development; as well as the state government’s determination to change Kano’s face to a modern city.
The Guild expressed appreciation to Governor Ganduje and members of the State Executive Council for providing the enabling environment for the national convention.