The Case for Regulation, by Abdulhamid Babatibde – Economic Confidential

Freedom of the press: the plea for regulation, by Abdulhamid Babatibde

When all is said about the federal government’s taming of Twitter, I hope there will be a quick realization that much remains to be done to make the media environment in Nigeria conducive to the rapid restoration of security. , peaceful coexistence and national security. development.
My reference to the taming of Twitter is a clear indication of my support for imposing restraint and liability on the unregulated operations of a private foreign propagator of information that has proven to be detrimental to a developing country that grapples with the inevitable and well-known challenges of nation-building.

What happened to the concept of development journalism which was deliberately promoted to provide a media environment for developing countries to prosper?

What worries me here is the orchestrated response of local media players to the no less timely revitalization of the regulatory role of the Nigerian Press Council, hitherto absent from action. It is indeed disturbing to witness a departure from the principle of inherent plurality of opinion that the press once supported by recognizing that there are (at least) two sides to any story. Today, all media players oppose the taming of foreign Twitter as well as the functional relevance of the Nigerian Press Council, disregarding the implications of unregulated private media operations on national unity, peaceful coexistence. and sustainable democracy.

You don’t have to be an “analyst” to realize the overwhelming predominance of private media with a parochial and political agenda at the national level of agenda setting, apart from the imbalance rooted in media distribution generally. between regions.

This media geography is further defined by depressed federal interest, particularly in the printing industry where the political elite perch and rampage over their personal interests.

The federal stake is critical here insofar as the institutions of the national government (aka 3 arms) come under its responsibility for the maintenance of sovereignty, independently of the transitional political composition.
When you add the no man’s land of foreign-controlled social media to this imbalance, you get a broader picture of the biased media status quo as well as the vulnerability of the central government as well as its burden of national sovereignty in the face of a siege or siege. potentially hostile media outlet. – Outbidding by the intense propagation of a combustible combination of fake news, hate speech, prejudice and other forms of incitement to manipulate media content.

So when the private media dominated by Nigerian media players come together to oppose the revitalization of the regulatory functions of the Nigerian Press Council and vigorously advocate “media independence and freedom of expression”, it is unlikely to be motivated solely by the national interest, especially when their interest complements the politics of opposition and secession. It is nevertheless indisputable that if the opposition found itself in the government in the center, it would spare no effort and cursed the consequences to jealously guard and defend the sovereignty of the country which would then conveniently camouflage the “survival of the regime” which is today. reported as anathema by the “independent press”.

I have always maintained that the closest to a professional independent newspaper can be found in “NUJ Times” if and when journalists can muster the means to run a national daily as a standard bearer not only for independents but, more importantly, objective, fair, factual and nationalistic journalism. This is not a blanket endorsement of the NUJ’s immunity from parish inducements, but rather an expression of confidence in its members’ ability to resist and reject editorial compromise. Likewise, the issue of geographic imbalance and the federal media deficit is a self-inflicted handicap, just as the predominance of private media where this remains is obviously a strategic choice for the beneficiaries. But the implications for the dynamics of national media coverage and the impact on governance and sovereignty cannot be discounted, just as the federal government cannot be denied the choice of legal options to contain situations resulting from a abnormal media environment that poses a threat to good governance.

From a professional perspective, too, the spontaneous and concerted response of NPAN, NGE, NUJ and the coalition of civil society organizations to the belated revitalization of the Nigeria Press Council (NPC), which was ineffective compared to to its broadcast counterpart, the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) is raising eyebrows. It is instructive that even the offshoots of NGOs cannot categorically reject regulation, as spokesman Lanre Arogundade said: “It’s not that regulation isn’t necessary, especially in the age of bogus. news and hate speech, but the point is that regulations must be such. that do not erode the independence or freedom of the media and are not unduly punitive.

This already debunks the notion of unfettered freedom of expression which is a frequent misleading campaign argument from the group that deliberately dodges the constitutional caveat of freedoms. Having recognized the harms of fake news and hate speech without any clue to guard against its deadly impact, it is gross insensitivity to speak out against strict regulations or to plead for leniency when broadcasters have since defended themselves. plugged into the NBC criminal frequency with increased fidelity. Which media is “independent” anyway?

Again, it is astonishing that these ‘vigilant’ sentinels of the credibility of the Nigerian media have developed a high tolerance for the rapidly deteriorating conditions of service as well as standards of professional practice which has befallen the Nigerian media industry. . It is not fake news or hate speech to place the Nigerian media industry among the most hostile to workers in the country, as the miserable lives of journalists, especially in the private media sector, are deplorable on a daily basis. at various events across the country. Unpaid work attracts unskilled and untrained con artists to besiege the “noble” profession; media content is polluted with unforgivable errors which have escaped editorial quality control as the “free” reign of public opinion has cast aside the sanctity of the facts and exclusive investigative reporting has become fundraising expeditions while the beats are now cartels. Matters are complicated by the lack of a powerful regulatory body to control excesses, provide redress to victims and ensure that professional standards and conditions of service are maintained.

This nauseating narrative is not topical among mainstream media, but its persistence indicates the dismemberment of the fraternity of journalists once focused on freedom fighters with a pan-Nigerian concern that swept away colonialism before editing. the lingering legacy of apartheid and its neo-colonialism. outposts to inspire the march of the liberation movements for independence. It is all nostalgia, subjugated by the pathetic prostitution of pens, making compatriots enemies and comrades of disguised detractors, in order to earn a living.

The NUJ should be further absorbed in the erosion of its terms of service and professional membership, an issue that the Editors Guild product utility. There is, in fact, a media industry variant of the COVID 19 social distancing protocol that makes infantry reporters “on their own,” separated from the elated exclusivity of owners by a higher echelon of the editorial elite better. known as “media executives” who blow the trumpet to tunes dictated by owners but insist they play the national anthem.
The hierarchical structure of the written press in fact requires the intervention of a higher regulatory authority supported by the government in the respective interests of journalists, editors, the profession and, ultimately, the national (public) interest. . The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Press Council (NPC), Francis Nwosu captured this reality as follows: “The desirability of a press council should indeed not be contested because not only does it serve as a democratic, effective and inefficient forum. expensive to hear complaints. It also serves as an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanism that helps reduce the barrage of disputes that would otherwise clog the courts. This is in addition to its mandate of maintaining and promoting high professional standards for the Nigerian press.

Isn’t it absurd that even the “professional” NUJ and the NGE oppose the revitalization of the Press Council?

ABDULHAMID BABATUNDE, is a former editor-in-chief of The Democrat in Kaduna.

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