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‘Your safety, security paramount’, workshop counsels journalists

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Uphold journalism ethics, media professionals urged

Journalists and other media professionals have been admonished not to compromise their safety and security but rather continuously invest in skills development, tool acquisition and usage that enhance data and digital security.

This was one of outcome of a two-day media capacity building workshop on organised by International Press Centre (IPC) for Journalists, an independent media resource centre based in Lagos.

The workshop, which was held in Asaba, Delta State on 29 and 30 June, had as its theme: “Safety/Security Consciousness and Mechanisms in Investigative Reporting and Coverage of Conflicts or Dangerous Assignments”. Journalists in Anambra, Delta and Edo States were in attendance.

The programme came on the heels of increasing attacks on journalists and other media professionals by state and non-state actors with negative consequences for their physical and mental well-being.

According to the 14-point communique issued and signed for IPC by Mr Adeola Olanrewaju, journalists were encouraged to “at all times uphold the ethics of the profession particularly by exercising the discipline of verification and presenting news and reports in fair, balanced and objective manner”.

A cross-section of the participants

“Journalists,” the communique further stated, “should ensure that their reports are based on facts rather than assumptions so they could have good professional defence in case of threats or attacks”.

The workshop also recommended that: “journalists should ensure that their reports are based on facts rather than assumptions so they could have good professional defence in case of threats or attacks.

“Journalists should be conflict-sensitive and refrain from presenting news or reports that are prejudiced, undermine the facts of a conflict and capable of inflaming passions thereby escalating violent conflicts.

“Journalists should not only limit themselves to negative issues in conflicts, but also report positive things that happen during conflicts as the reporting of such can help prick the conscience of combatants and convince them to embrace peace.

“Journalists should be abreast with laws of the land and various regulatory mechanisms to avoid running into avoidable danger.

“Journalists should scrutinise and follow up on media related legislative bills right from their formative stages and expose threats to journalists rights and press freedom before such bills are passed into law and become instruments for muzzling the media”.

The facilitators and participants at the workshop also suggested that “journalists should be resilient, build support groups, raise alarm when threatened or intimidated, report incidents of attacks and seek legal redress for any violation of their individual and professional rights.

“Media professional bodies and associations should be proactive in defending journalists under attack while they should ensure that media organisations provide maximum support and protection for their employees, particularly through enhanced welfare.

“Journalists and their professional bodies and associations should build some level of relationship with the legal profession, Civil Society Organisations and professional bodies both local and international towards enlisting their support whenever journalists and media outlets come under attack.

“Journalists should undertake risk assessment of every story in order to anticipate different scenarios and take necessary precautions to avoid exposure to danger.

“Journalists should understand that security is personal and should therefore regularly device suitable means of protecting themselves.

More participants

“Journalists should seek the help and intervention of relevant health experts whenever they are exposed to physical danger or face challenges to their mental health particularly if they notice such symptoms as anxiety, persistent low mood, depression, phobia, suicidal thoughts, etc.

“Journalists and their professional associations should ensure that media employers put in place work-based intervention programs that enable mental health experts to provide support for their employees”.

The workshop had earlier made some observations about journalism practice. Journalists, it said, “sometimes ignore the key elements of a good story, including accuracy and verification and therefore open themselves to the accusation of lack of objectivity, fairness and balance”.

The facilitators and participants also noted that: “opponents of press freedom do hide behind allegation of lack of fairness and diversity in reports to threaten and or attack journalists”.

“Journalists lack adequate knowledge of the frameworks especially laws guiding the practice of journalism and therefore often get exposed to pitfalls.

“Journalists often fail to take legal actions and pursue them to logical conclusion whenever their rights are violated through molestation and attacks.

“Journalists often do not embark on acts of solidarity whenever some of them are attacked.

“Media employers do contribute to the threats against journalists through job insecurity occasioned by low pay and nonpayment of salaries and general poor welfare package”.

Four resource persons made presentations at the workshop. They included an nvestigative journalist and press freedom advocate, Mr Peter Nkanga, who facilitated the sessions on “Data and Digital Security and Related Security Issues in Investigative Reporting and Coverage of Dangerous Assignments”; while an Associate Professor of Mass Communication at Delta State University, Abraka, Dr Majority Orji made a presentation on “Investigative Journalism or Reporting: Understanding the Challenges and Possible Dangers”.

A lecturer at the Department of Psychology, University of Lagos, Dr Uzo Israel, was a Clinical Psychologist, Mr Moses Tingir, who made a presentation on “Attacks on Journalists, Mental Health Challenges and the Imperative of Effective Management” while IPC’s Executive Director of IPC, Mr Lanre Arogundade facilitated a session on “Stages/Phases of Conflicts, Roles of Journalists and Safety Challenges”.

The workshop was attended by 26 print, broadcast and online journalists. They expressed their profound gratitude to the Shehu Musa Yar’adua Foundation, Ford Foundation, Luminate and OSIWA for providing the resources for the project on “Contextualising and Publicising Real Costs and Mobilising Against Increasing Violation of Media Freedom, Journalists Rights and Freedom of Expression”, under which the workshop was held.

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