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Don Describes Journalists as key holders of public trust

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Olanrewaju Arotimi, Calabar

A university lecturer and Associate Professor, Presly ‘Ruke
Obukoadata, has described journalists and media personnel as the key
holders of public trust in the society, charging them to be steadfast.

He stated this at a public lecture with the theme “Journalism Ethics,
the New Media, Ascendency and Public Trust”, to mark the first year
anniversary of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Cross River State
Council, yesterday in Calabar.

This is even as the Comrade Gill Nsa’s led Council of the Nigeria
Union of Journalists (NUJ), Cross River State, said she had kept the
faith on her mandate and pledges.

According to Obukoadata, who is a lecturer in the Department of Mass
Communication, University of Calabar (UNICAL), “Public trust has been
challenged by what holders of public trust do. The key holders of
public trust are the journalists and media personnel.”

He, however said whatever a Journalist does with the public trust
reposed on him or her will either uplift or spell doom for the
society.

Obukoadata, a former reporter and news editor of high repute, said the
public feels that the Journalists represent their interest and trust
them with vital information that should be used to bring justice to
bear on the society.

He said the society now demands more daring and accountable
Journalists, adding that media practitioners hold a sacred mandate
even better than what was given to the political class.

“Public trust has been challenged by what holders of public trust do.
The key holders of public trust are the journalists and media
personnel. The public feel that the journalists represent their
interest and trust them with vital information that should be used to
bring justice to bear on the society. But what have we done with this
trust reposed on us?

“We can best search our hearts to get the right answers. Can we still
hold on to those ethos that made us the pride of society? Can people
in your area see you drive pass in a flashy car, and say that is
Journalist XYZ with a strong ethical value and have worked extremely
well to make society better?

“I asked all of these in the face of the facts that once some of us
assume official position as media aides and spokespersons, we get
entangled in politics, and forget the sacred responsibility we have to
society. The responsibility that pushes on us the onus of custodian of
public trust. We speak for the sole interest of our principal and not
for the public anymore, we act at variance to the dictates of the
people since it is now ‘us’ and ‘them’, and only find our voices when
we leave office or at the receiving end. This ought not to be the
situation.

“I dare say here, lets’ begin to have journalists that will dare the
consequences, and tell their principals that they will quit if the
public ideals are not upheld. I must tell us that we hold a sacred
mandate way better than what was given to elected officials. We must
guide it jealously and happily.

“The ethical principles in journalism are the fundamental codes that
guide journalism practice the world over. They are the pillars on
which the profession of journalism is built; without their application
to the news gathering and production process, the profession will lose
its integrity. There are numerous ethical principles, but the
following are some of the core universally acknowledged ethical
principles of media practice: Truth, objectivity, fairness and
accuracy”, Obukoadata stated.

While reflecting on the theme of his lecture, “Journalism Ethics, the
New Media, Ascendency and Public Trust”, Professor Obukoadata was of
the view that the media should not be seen as primarily a source of
information, but as a means of achieving self-interest, creating
community and offering a sense of belonging.

He said the problem of the media is multi-faceted even with the
ascendency of the new media, disclosing that the new media is not
abating, but constantly evolving with technologies including
artificial intelligence requiring the traditional media practitioners
to up their ante to either meet up or surpass what owners of the new
media are doing.

According to him, “The challenges inherent in the above is where we
place the impact of the new media, and how they have ascended to the
realm of deciding for us. I even fear more with the evolution of
artificial intelligence in helping to write and shape the news.

“What chances can we take from all of these? The problem is such that
as we progress, we are constantly being inundated by more issues. The
situation is dire today because of the ascendency of the new media.
The new media is not abating, it is constantly evolving, and with
technologies as deep fakes, artificial intelligence and others that
are convoked with the use of algorithms, we must up our ante to either
meet up or surpass what the owners of the new media are doing.”

The academic, nevertheless, noted that more was needed from the
Nigeria Union of Journalists to ensure that all media practitioners
adhere strictly to their professional ethics.

He said the diatribe of the new media had challenged the ethical
foundations of journalism practice; prompting some Journalists to
always want to do anything at any time under any guise to get
anything, and which has the potential to water down the public trust
on Journalists.

Obukoadata submitted that the NUJ rather than the government should be
given a more defined professional mandate for enforcing regulations of
the journalism core ethical values.

“We cannot in all certainty argue that we have done well, neither can
we say that we have done badly either, but there are marked room for
improvements in our efforts. The diatribe of the new media had
challenged our ethical foundations as journalist to always want to do
anything at any time under any guise to get anything, and this has
watered down public trust on us. Time was when the journalist is more
likely to get the truth out of criminal than investigating police man.

“The journalists and by extension the journalism profession is an
endangered species. The crop of the good ones is running away without
any form of mentoring or transmission of values, and the biting
economic situations have come to provide impetus for a group of
persons to so regard themselves as purveyor of news. Thus, we have
breeds of journalism and journalists who are defying the odds.

“The absence of any form of regulations is even more frustrating. When
we mean regulations, we do not accede to coercing and censorship.
Although, it becomes very tiring to know where to draw the lines on
regulations. I think that the issue we should be asking is who should
do the regulations?

“My take is that, like other professions, we should give the NUJ a
more defined professional mandate for enforcing regulations of our
core ethical values. If we leave it in the hands of the government,
they might frustrate and bottle the media; if we leave it to the
public, we might lose touch of what it is to set agenda for the media
for the society, and like McQuail (2005) argued, get drowned in the
voices; we have no option than to leave it to ourselves by doing it
right”, he added.

Meanwhile, the Council Chairman, Gill Nsa, said he cannot, but give
thanks to God
Almighty for the grace to succeed despite all odds within one year on
the mantle of leadership.

He said the welfare of Council members had been top in the priorities
of his administration, adding that he will strive to maintain the
tempo.

The Chairman also assured that the training and retraining of
practicing Journalists in the state will be accorded the required
attention, revealing that concerted efforts were being made to
reactive the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ), Calabar
Study Centre in order to actualize this policy as soon as possible.

The occasion, which attracted quite a number of both practicing and
non-practicing Journalists in the State featured the presentation of
goodwill messages from Cross River State Deputy Governor, Rt. Hon.
Peter Odey, who was the Special Guest of Honour as well as the Obong
of Calabar.

Other dignitaries at the event include the Permanent Secretary,
Ministry of Youths, Sports and Cinematography; Mr. Samuel Egbala, the
immediate past Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information in the
State; Mr. Emma Apong, as well as Special Assistant to the Governor on Media; Mr. Rasheed Olanrewaju, among others.

Highlights of the 3-day anniversary celebration which culminated with
a church thanksgiving service held at the Christian Central Chapel
International (CCCI), Calabar, were a city walk within the metropolis
flagged off by Chief of Staff to Governor Bassey Ot u, as well as 30
minutes’ aerobics at the Press Centre.


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