Economic,Technological Challenges Won’t Stifle Jourmalism-Platforms Africa’s Publisher

Mohammed Shosanya

Team Lead of Platforms Africa, Adeola Yusuf,has mentored hundreds of young journalists and students of mass communication at Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU),where he assured them of a promising future for journalism despite technological and economic challenges.

Yusuf, a three-time winner of the Nigeria Media Merit Award (NMMA), delivered a lecture titled; “Print Media Organisation in Nigeria From Conception To Economic Glory: Weaning The Young Journalists,” at a seminar for 300-level mass communication students of the University.

He stated that the consistent advancement in technology gives credence to his belief that no journalist who is creative should be out of job.

The media lecture also featured Nigeria’s former ambassador to the United Kingdom (UK), HE Sarafa Tunji-Isola; ex-information minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; TV host, Morayo Afolabi-Brown, and Chrisland varsity lecturer, Dr. Demolu Okuneye.

Yusuf,who admitted that technology posed some challenges to conventional journalism practice and made hard copy newspaper publishing and terrestrial broadcasting less lucrative, stated that the same technology, where properly studied and applied, has been a revenue spinner for many journalists and non-journalists in Nigeria and around the world.

He said:”Journalism is a trade no one can escape. You are either the seller, the product or the buyer,” he said, adding that while consistent change in technology has made many trained journalists to be products and buyers of information on new media, many untrained people have been smiling to the banks for adapting to and taking full advantage of the imminent change in technology.

“Many journalists who may be complaining of what they believed are disadvantages technology has brought to their trade, use their data to watch skits by Taoma, Mark Angel, Layi Wasabi, Mr. Macaroni and Lege Miami.

“Some even still marvel at how Instablog9ja and Linda Ikeji make a lot of money with their hot gist and society reportage. If you do not understand or agree with how skit makers are making it through creativity, the two blogs I have mentioned are already believed by many to be practising information dissemination – something close to journalism – with the help of the same technology many professionals complained about.

“They (the blogs) are owned by two young and creative Nigerians who never attended university to study mass communication. While Linda Ikeji studied English Language at the University of Lagos, the owner of Instablog9ja, according to the blog, is Mr. Aruleba who studied an agric related course at the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB). Without prejudice, these young Nigerians have done well for themselves using the tools many who were trained in mass communication have failed to use – technology.

“Good news is that professionals are now becoming awake with establishments of thriving online newspapers like Platforms Africa, Premium Times, The Cable, The Eagle Online, and Freedom online, among others. Conventional newspapers, too, are not left out as they now have versatile online editions and PDF papers. It is as simple as if you are not there, you are nowhere!

“The time you have spent being a product or buyer of information with your data is enough. You are students here to study Mass Communication to be actively involved in the trade of journalism as the seller of information. What else are you waiting for?”

Commending the Platforms Africa boss, lecturers including the Dean faculty of social sciences, Prof. Dele Odunlami; course lecturer, Associate Prof. Semiu Bello; Head of Mass Communication department Dr. Lanre Akinola and others commended Adeola Yusuf and other guest lecturers for mentoring the students.

Professor Odunlami, a globally recognised scholar of communication, expressed admiration for Adeola Yusuf’s Platforms Africa and its style of news writing and headline casting.

“I usually see the byline as I have been reading your stories. I am happy that I am meeting you in person today,” Professor Odunlami said.

He charged the students to take note and make full use of the pieces of advice given by Yusuf and all the resource persons.

“These pieces of advice from our resource persons will go a long way in brightening up your future in your chosen carrier as journalists or broadcasters,” he added.

Coalition Launches #DontPoliceMySpeech# Campaign To Stop Journalists’ Arrest

Mohammed Shosanya

A coalition of Nigerian journalists and civic space defenders,Wednesday  launched the #DontPoliceMySpeech campaign a public demand for an end to the abuse of power and the criminalization of free speech by Nigerian authorities.

The campaign highlighted the misuse and weaponization of the Cybercrimes Act in a bid to silence and prevent journalists, activists, and ordinary citizens from exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights to free speech and expression.

The civil society organizations that signed on the campaign include; Accountability Lab Nigeria, Paradigm Initiative, SERAP, CJID, Dataphyte Foundation, Humangle Media, Tap Initiative, DigiCivic Initiative, Follow Taxes, Document Women, More Branches, Femme Mag, LightRay Media, Invictus Africa, Marie Claire, Document Women and Gatefield.

The group said the cases of journalists’ arrest during this administration send a disturbing message that no one is safe for expressing their opinion.

The Cybercrimes Act, originally designed to combat online criminal activity, has morphed into a tool for silencing dissent. Despite its recent amendment, Section 24 of the Cybercrimes Act, continues to be misused by Nigerian security agencies in violation of the Nigerian constitution.

The campaign has released a public service announcement (PSA) video and a set of posters that depict the several ways in which Nigerian security authorities have violated the rights of journalists and citizens in a bid to silence them.

Besides,a peaceful march involving approximately 200 journalists, civil society organizations, and citizens was held at the Ministry of Justice, demanding an end to infringements on freedom of expression and unlawful arrests.

“Freedom of expression is entrenched in the Nigerian Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which Nigeria is a signatory,” affirmed the Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Journalists during the march. Shirley Ewang, Advocacy Lead at Gatefield emphasized, “The stifling of the press and public discourse is authoritarian and undermines citizens’ rights to demand accountability. Nigerians are weary of these abuses under what is supposed to be a democratic government. We call on the Ministry of Justice to cease using taxpayers’ money to prosecute journalists for exercising their right to freedom of expression.”

 The key demands of the coalition include: immediate end to police abuse of power, Ensure justice is properly ordered, and Protection of fundamental rights for all Nigerians.

MRA Seeks Immediate Release Of Kidnapped Journalists,Families

Mohammed Shosanya

The Media Rights Agenda (MRA),has expressed concern over the recent abduction of two journalists based in Kaduna State, along with their wives and children, and called on the Federal Government to take immediate action to secure their safe release in accordance with its duty to ensure the safety of journalists and other media workers.

About 15 armed men had invaded the Dahjonu community in Millennium City, in the Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State in the night of Saturday, July 6, 2024, and abducted Mr. Abdulgafar Alabelewe, a reporter with The Nation newspaper; and Mr. AbdulRaheem Abdu of Blueprint newspaper, along with their wives and children.

In a statement issued in Lagos, MRA’s Deputy Executive Director, Mr. Ayode Longe, said the kidnap of the two journalists and their families is a heinous act that underscores the growing dangers faced by journalists in Nigeria and the urgent need for the Federal Government to fulfill its obligation to ensure the safety of journalists and other media workers.

He added:”We unequivocally condemn the abduction and call on the Federal Government, as well as all relevant security and law enforcement agencies, to take all necessary measures to secure the immediate and safe release of these journalists and their families. The government must also act swiftly and decisively to bring the perpetrators of this despicable crime to justice.”

He emphasized that the safety of journalists is vital to the preservation of media freedom and the protection of human rights, adding that journalists play a crucial role in informing the public, holding power to account, and fostering a democratic society, adding that any attack on them is an attack on the collective right of Nigerians to information and freedom of expression.

He noted that in addition to Section 14(2)(b) of the Constitution, which makes the security of all Nigerians, including journalists, the primary purpose of government,the government also has an obligation under various regional and international instruments to which Nigeria is a party to ensure the safety of journalists, to properly and adequately investigate any attack against journalists and to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.

He urged the government to reaffirm its commitment to the safety of journalists by taking concrete steps to protect media professionals from threats, violence and other forms of attacks, including ensuring that security agencies are adequately equipped and trained to respond to such incidents and that there is a clear and effective strategy for preventing future abductions and attacks on journalists.

He said MRA stands in solidarity with the families of Mr. Alabelewe and Mr. Abdu during what must be an incredibly difficult time for them, and called on all Nigerians to join it in demanding the safe return of the journalists and their families.

Sahara Group Launches Asharami Square To Enhance Sustainability In Media Coverage

Mohammed Shosanya

Leading energy and infrastructure conglomerate, Sahara Group, has announced the inaugural edition of Asharami Square, a pioneering initiative aimed at advancing the reportage of issues related to sustainability through impactful media advocacy.

The inaugural session is scheduled for Monday, June 24, 2024, featuring an interactive panel discussion in Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria, a statement said on Wednesday.

Bethel Obioma, Head, Corporate Communications at Sahara Group, explained that it was imperative to support media organisations and journalists covering these issues through capacity building programs.

“This would help journalists achieve a clearer understanding of the issues and empower the media to play the critical role of monitoring, agenda-setting, transparent reporting, awareness creation and galvanising collective action from the public on how best to approach the subject-matter of sustainability,” Obioma said.

Themed ‘Carbon Footprint and the African Narrative’, Asharami Square will feature speakers from the energy and media sector.

Participants are drawn from different segments of the media, including students from Mass Communications departments.

Obioma said the thought leadership platform will provide an “opportunity to encourage deeper knowledge of the media, especially in Africa, on issues such as energy transition, transition fuels, environmental stewardship, governance, carbon storage, capture, and usage, among others.”

Ejiro Gray, Director, Governance and Sustainability, Sahara Group said Africa’s media institutions would benefit immensely from similar platforms.

She said: “As sustainability issues gain prominence, media coverage helps to educate stakeholders, which can in turn influence corporate behaviour and policymaking. Asharami Square is a targeted platform to shape these conversations on key industry issues, especially for the benefit of the media which serves as the last-mile-component in the value chain of keeping the public abreast of unfolding developments.”

Speakers at the maiden edition of Asharami Square include: Bethel Obioma; Ejiro Gray; Foluso Sobanjo, Head, Downstream Africa, Sahara Group; Wole Ajeigbe, Group Projects Manager, Asharami Energy (A Sahara Group Upstream Company); Mokhtar Bounour, CEO Egbin Power Plc; Ogochukwu Onyelucheya, Chief Commercial Officer, Ikeja Electric; Prof. Sunday Adebisi, Professor of Entrepreneurship Hub & Strategic Management, University of Lagos; ChiChi Aniagolu-Okoye, Regional Director, West Africa, Ford Foundation; Eugene O. Itua, CEO Natural Eco Capital; and Dr. Marcel Mbamalu, CEO Newstide Publications Limited.

Seplat Energy Trains Energy,Judiciary Editors On Data Journalism

Mohammed Shosanya

Seplat Energy Plc,an indigenous energy company, has concluded the first phase of its training programme for journalists and media practitioners in Nigeria.

The first phase of the programme covers thirty-seven (37) energy and judiciary editors.

The Seplat Energy media training programme, which was organised in partnership with Channels Academy, is targeted at building reporting and editing capacity in the media whilst driving innovation and technology progress in the profession.

The trainees were exposed to the intersections of law and energy, referencing regulatory frameworks, major legal cases, environmental laws, ethical considerations, and media objectivity.

Besides,modules on investigative reporting (techniques, advanced research methods, using public records, interviewing techniques); data Journalism in judicial and energy reporting; analysis of energy sector developments; and collaborative reporting projects with story ideas development, were explored.

Insights on legal challenges in energy reporting (understanding defamation, libel, navigating legal challenges) and the future of energy and law with regards to emerging trends, were provided as the training evaluated future legal challenges and the need to prepare for industry shifts.

In attendance at the training were media professionals from print, electronic and online platforms.

Commenting on the training, the Director, External Affairs and Social Performance, Seplat Energy, Mrs. Chioma Afe, thanked the media professionals, resource persons and Channels Academy for their commitments to the success of the training programme.

Mrs. Afe, who was represented by the Manager, Corporate Communications at Seplat Energy, Mr. Stanley Opara, re-echoed Seplat Energy’s commitment to building capacity in the media and promoting best practice in the industry.

“At Seplat Energy, we see the media as a critical stakeholder; and the best we can do to make the industry develop is to encourage excellence. We believe in value creation and retention for all our stakeholders; and today, we are honoured to be contributing our quota towards the advancement of the media in Nigeria,” he added.

Responding, the media professionals under the aegis of the Association of Energy Correspondents of Nigeria (NAEC) and the National Association of Judicial Correspondents (NAJUC), thanked Seplat Energy for providing the training opportunity and driving excellence in the media space.

The journalists described the programme as timely and well thought out. They, therefore, urged other corporate organisations in the country to emulate Seplat Energy in the quest to grow the Nigerian media industry and boost the needed capacity.

Society Of Energy Editors Debuts

The Society of Energy Editors (SEE), a newly established professional body, has come into operation to connect the links, promote excellence in energy journalism and strengthen the gatekeeping function of the media in the energy sector.

The Executive Secretary of the SEE, Mr. Chuks Isiwu,conveyed its birth in a statement on Wednesday.

The group emphasised its commitment to indepth knowledge and nuanced reporting in the energy industry, which has been lacking in recent times.

Isiwu maintained that given the complexities of energy issues, it is imperative that media professionals covering the sector have a deep understanding of its operations, government policies, and regulatory frameworks.

He added that membership of the Society is open to experienced journalists, editors, producers, and media professionals who have demonstrated a commitment to accurate and impactful reporting on energy issues.

He said:”Members are expected to uphold the highest standards of journalistic ethics and professionalism, continually enhance their knowledge of the energy sector (oil, gas, power, solid minerals, community relations, renewable energy, labour relations, energy finance, freight, & technology,) and actively engage in mentoring and knowledge sharing”.

FG Gives Media Houses Single-Digit Loan

Mohammed Shosanya

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has directed the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, through the Bank of Industry (BOI), to extend its single-digit interest-rate financing to media organizations in the country.

This was disclosed in a statement by Rabiu Ibrahim, the Special Assistant (Media) to the Minister of Information and National Orientation.

The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris stated this in Abuja on Wednesday when he received members of the Independent Broadcasting Association of Nigeria (IBAN) on a courtesy visit to his office.

According to him,the gesture is in keeping with the administration’s resolve to create an enabling business environment for the media to operate in Nigeria.

“Let me say that the Federal Ministry of Information and National Orientation under my leadership, as part of our five pillars, will support all media platforms in this country, whether they are public or private.

“I can tell you that the President has directed the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to extend financing to media organizations at single-digit interest rates. I think you need to take advantage of that,” he said.

He urged IBAN members to develop bankable proposals to access the financing facility being offered by the Federal Government.

The Minister also frowned at instances of willful violation of advertising industry payment standards, condemning the habit by some practitioners of failing to remit advertising payments to media organizations within the approved 90 days.

Idris said, henceforth, the Advertising Regulatory Commission of Nigeria (ARCON), would be mandated to ensure that all advertising revenues due to media organizations are released to them promptly.

The Minister advised the private broadcasters to key into the Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Initiative of the Federal Government to bring down the cost of their operations through cheaper access to energy.

Idris said with the commissioning of three gas projects by the President and other initiatives of his administration, Nigeria aims to attain sufficiency in gas processing for local consumption and export.

In response to the request from IBAN regarding the resumption of the Digital Switch Over (DSO) rollout, the Minister, who expressed deep concerns over the historically slow progress of the DSO initiative, stressed the need for a renewed and vigorous approach to ensure timely completion.

He disclosed that the President has instructed the ministry to expedite the DSO project by adopting successful models from other countries that have effectively transitioned from analog to digital broadcasting.

In his remarks, the Chairman of IBAN, Alhaji Ahmed Tijjani Ramalan complained of multifaceted challenges confronting the broadcasting industry in Nigeria, and called for urgent steps to revitalize the sector to stimulate innovation and empower indigenous media owners.

“The Nigerian broadcast industry, a cornerstone of the nation’s information and entertainment landscape, faces significant challenges hindering its ability to reach its full potential. There is the urgent need to take the initiative with a design to revitalise the industry, stimulate innovation, unlock the potential media economy and empower indigenous media entities,” he said.

CHRICED Seeks Immediate Release Of FIJ Journalist,Daniel Ojukwu

Mohammed Shosanya

The Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education,CHRICED,has implored police authorities to release immediately a journalist with the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), Daniel Ojukwu and to cease any further harassment of journalists in Nigeria.

Its Executive Director,Comrade Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi,who conveyed the development,also called on the Nigeria Police to respect the rights of journalists and to uphold the rule of law.

Journalists,he said,play a crucial role in a democratic society by providing information to the public and exposing corruption and wrongdoing,adding that it’s essential that they are able to carry out their work without fear of reprisal or harassment.

He said:” Freedom of the press is a fundamental right that must be protected in order to ensure transparency and accountability in governance. CHRICED stands in solidarity with all journalists who are facing threats and intimidation in the course of their work and will continue to advocate for their rights and safety”

He deplored the abduction and continued detention of Daniel Ojukwu, and amented that despite widespread public outcry, the Nigeria police have continued to hold Daniel Ojukwu for a week .

It is disconcerting that Mr. Mulyiwa Adejobi, the police spokesperson, cited an ongoing investigation based on a petition without disclosing the identity of the petitioner,he said.

He said:”This situation evokes memories of past military authoritarian regimes, signalling a perilous descent towards a fully-fledged dictatorship under President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, wherein security agencies prioritize the interests of the politically powerful and influential.

“CHRICED strongly denounces the inappropriate use of security forces, which are supported by public funds, to harass citizens, especially journalists who are carrying out their responsibilities by covering governance matters. Thanks to the brave, patriotic, and fearless investigative reporting done by the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), the entire nation and even the global community became aware of the widespread corruption within the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS). In a more just society, FIJ would be commended by the government for uncovering corruption. Regrettably, the reality is quite the opposite.

“CHRICED upholds the values of justice, truth, liberty, rule of law, and human rights for all, especially marginalized groups, as essential for a peaceful and prosperous society. Any attack on democracy, free speech, and diverse voices undermines the foundation of a democratic system, as seen in the unjust abduction and harassment of the FIJ journalist”.

NUJ, NAS Seek Release Of Detained Journalist

Mohammed Shosanya

The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Oyo State Council, and the National Association of Seadogs (NAS), Jolly Rogers Deck, have sought the release of Mubarak Bala, who has been detained for four years without trial.

This plea was conveyed on Monday during a courtesy visit by NAS to the union in observance of Year 2024 World Press Freedom Day.

The NAS delegation, led by its Capoon, Mr. Olufemi Adesope,was welcomed at the NUJ press center by the NUJ Chairman, Comrade Ademola Babalola, and other executive members.

Adesope said that the 72-year-old association, also known as the Pyrate Confraternity, was founded at the University College Ibadan to advocate for a society where peace and justice prevail.

He emphasised the association’s commitment to advancing UN development goals, including quality education, healthcare, strong institutions, and sustainable peace.

Adesope underscored the symbiotic relationship between the association and the press, acknowledging the media’s crucial role in fostering peace.

He praised the intellectual depth within the association and its dedication to providing solutions to the nation’s challenges.

Adesope reaffirmed the association’s commitment to collaboration with the press for the realization of a more just society.

He appealed to NUJ to join efforts in securing the release of Bala Mubarak, the detained president of the Humanist Association.

Replying,Babalola expressed gratitude for the visit and assured to positively looked into the collaboration between the body and the NUJ.

He commended NAS’s developmental initiatives, countering misconceptions about the association’s objectives.

Babalola encouraged NAS to persist in its endeavours towards a fairer society, pledging ongoing collaboration from NUJ.

He joined NAS to re-echo the call for Bala Mubarak’s release, emphasising the importance of the rule of law and sanctity of detainee’s human rights.

Groups Seek Governments  Protection Of Media Freedom

Mohammed Shosanya

Four human rights and media support organizations have called on Federal and State Governments to take urgent measures to ensure media freedom and the safety of journalists in Nigeria, saying the deteriorating state of media freedom in country is potentially harmful to its system of democratic governance.

They conveyed their call in a statement announcing their collaborative activities to commemorate the 2024 edition of World Press Freedom Day (WPFD 2024) through separate events taking place in Lagos and Abuja on Friday, May 3.

According to the statement,Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and Global Rights: Advocates for Sustainable Justice, in collaboration with the International Press Centre (IPC) and the Centre for Media and Society (CEMESO), will hold a hybrid convening in Lagos under the theme: “The Imperative of Media Freedom for Democratic Governance”, to underscore the vital role that the media play in promoting transparency, accountability, good governance, and democracy.

The event will have media stakeholders drawn from among journalists and editors, media owners and managers, civil society organizations, the academia, and others participating physically and virtually and will include activities such as sharing of experiences by journalists who have faced various forms of attacks, a presentation on the importance of counselling for journalists who have been victims of attacks, as well as presentations on various civil society efforts to ensure the safety of journalists and protect media freedom, which are designed to strengthen the media as they strive to promote democracy, human rights, and social justice.

A separate event will be hosted in Abuja by Global Rights in collaboration with MRA and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR). The event will be a Webinar titled “Freedom of the Press in Peril – Raising the Bar for Press Freedom in Nigeria”, which is aimed at sparking a conversation on how to safeguard press freedoms in Africa and how the operational environment for the press can be improved in Nigeria and across the continent.

The event will identify global best practices that create a conducive and enabling environment for the press and share experiences of how they can be domesticated in a way that makes them more easily accessible to journalists and other media professionals in Nigeria.

Proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, World Press Freedom Day is celebrated around the world on May 3 every year as a reminder to governments of the need for them to respect their commitment to press freedom and create a safe and conducive environment for journalism and media practice.

Speaking on the collaborative efforts by the various organizations, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director of MRA, said: “As the world celebrates World Press Freedom Day on May 3, we wish to reaffirm our commitment to upholding the fundamental principles of free speech, independent journalism, and the protection of press freedoms worldwide knowing that a free and independent media is the oxygen of democracy. We are determined to work with like-minded individuals and organizations towards the emergence of an environment where media professionals can carry out their professional functions without fear or intimidation and where the media can realize its true purpose.”

According to Mr. Lanre Arogundade, Director of IPC, “We recognize the challenges facing journalists and media professionals across the country, including censorship, intimidation, violence, and online harassment. In the face of these threats and attacks, we commend the resilience and courage of journalists who continue to pursue the truth, often at great personal risk. We also promise that we shall continue to render whatever support we can to ensure that the atmosphere is made conducive for them to ply their trade.”

Dr. Akin Akingbulu, Executive Director of CEMESO, said: “We take the opportunity of this important occasion to once again call on governments, civil society organizations, and individuals everywhere to join us in defending press freedom, protecting journalists, and ensuring that information remains a public good accessible to all. Together, let us stand united in support of press freedom and the fundamental principles of democracy.”