Mr Olusegun Aribike, former Editor-in-Chief of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) has called on media practitioners across the country to imbibe the habit of self regulation to move the industry forward.
Aribike made the call in his paper presentation titled, “The Role of the Media in Maintaining Balance Between The Public’s Right to Know and the National Interest” at a workshop for journalist in Ibadan.
The workshop on the Role of the Media in Combating Violent Extremism and Terrorism in Nigeria was organised by the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) in collaboration with Forte and Hanz Limited.
Aribike said one of the key aspects of the journalism profession was the Principle of Social Responsibility.
According to him, Social Responsibility means that individuals and companies have a duty to act in the best interests of society and environment as a whole.
He explained that the concept demands that journalists should ask themselves who the ultimate beneficiaries of their publications are, is it the government, the people or the country’s enemies.
“We know that the constitution gives the media the power to seek, hold
and disseminate information, ideas and opinions. This emphasizes the importance of the media and justifies why the media requires the freedom to perform its role.
“However, there is a need for the media to use that power with the utmost sense of responsibility so that it does not undermine national defence, public safety, public order or public health.
“Though there are laws that regulate the activities of the media, the best approach may be for the media to self regulate itself.
“This way, it will avoid government interference in its work. Hence, the need for the NUJ, the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria, and government agencies such as the NPC to play more active roles in journalism practice in the country.
“All parties in this matter should seek to work in harmony and avoid situations that lead to unnecessary conflict,” Aribike said.
Aribike further said that globally, there were disagreements between the government and the media over what constitutes national interest.
He explained that ”while in the European and American democracies, such disputes are resolved by the courts, in Nigeria and other African states, such disagreements are resolved mainly through the use of force, intimidation, arrests, detentions and sometimes sacking the journalists or closing the media houses.
According to him, this leads to unnecessary heating of the polity and unwarranted interference in the affairs of the country by foreign nations with attendant negative consequences.
“Though Nigeria currently practises democracy, there are some suspicions between the government and the media.
“This suspicion sometimes arises from the belief of the media that the public has the right know while the government not denying that right, feels there is a need to keep some information from the public space.
“To resolve this challenge, there must be a way to balance the right of the public to know and the need to maintain security.
“One of the ways the constitution provides to resolve this problem is by giving the judiciary the power to adjudicate in such matters,” he said.