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Ajimobi, Fayose, Abati task media on objectivity and professionalism -Funmi Olaitan

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Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, his Ekiti State counterpart, Mr. Ayodele Fayose and former Special Adviser on Media to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Reuben Abati, on Tuesday, harped on the importance of objectivity and professionalism of media practitioners as a way of achieving good governance and sustainable development in the country.

While the governors stressed the need for objective reportage that will not bring the people and government on a collision course, Abati warned journalists to be cautious in the discharge of their duties because government officials and politicians do not trust them but rather believed that they (journalists) could be bought and that news can also be fixed if the price is right.

They spoke at the first State Council on Information Summit, organised by Oyo State Government through the state Ministry of Information.

The two-day summit with the theme: Managing Information and Communications: The Catalyst For sustainable Development", had in attendance media practitioners from the print, broadcast and online, media executives, media regulatory bodies, veteran journalists and academics.

Others include public relations practitioners, theatre practitioners, independent broadcasters, film makers, students and other relevant stakeholders in the media sector.

While declaring the summit open, Ajimobi quoting the words of former American President, Thomas Jefferson who said "whenever the people are informed, they can be trusted with their own government", maintained that misinforming the people, particularly about government activities can only breed disharmony and lack of trust between the government and the people.

The governor who agreed that being objective is one of the most difficult thing to be in life, however enjoined media practitioners to ensure they correctly and factually inform the people so that the government and the people can always work in the same direction.

He said, "Our answer as a government in this maiden edition of the summit is to seek responses to the questions which often arise at every critical point of whether the media industry has been living up to its name, performing up to expected standard, or has the government also instituted a seamless and easy access to information dissemination and communication machinery for its policies?

"Obviously, we cannot answer in the affirmative. So, today, our answer is this gathering. Our answer is this maiden edition of Oyo State Council on information summit with the theme: Managing information and communications: the catalyst for sustainable development. It is convened by the Oyo state government for stakeholders in the media profession, to exchange views and ideas and to seek ways of improvement.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I implore all of you here, to please let us correctly, factually, inform our people so that the government and the people can work in the same direction. As the internet and digital media usage becomes increasingly widespread, it is a matter of strategic necessity for information managers to fashion out practical strategies in the engagement of the various interest groups.

"In whatever we do, we are the people that will make this profession respected and respectable. When you talk facts and figures, when you find out what you don't know, when you engage people in the public service and you engage various stakeholders, openly, honestly and without prejudice, it gives credibility to whatever you are doing, and credibility is important in professionalism, so I implore all of you as you are here today, not to favour any government or any individual, you can be apolitical and objective. The most difficult thing to be in life is to be objective because as human beings we are all always very subjective"

Fayose in his remark, urged media practitioners to look inwards and lead by example with whatever they are sending to the government and the public, adding that if things get better through the information and communication disseminated, it is in the interest of everybody.

He lamented that most journalists have abandoned their first professional call and have become what he described as "professional-political journalist", urging them to choose a path to follow of the two fields.

He said, "I want to remind you that if it gets better, it gets better for all of us. Leaders of yesterday wanted it better than what we have now, who will make it better for you and your children that are unborn and their tomorrow?

"The first thing I will suggest is for you to look inward, you can only lead by example, whatever you are sending to us, whatever you are sending to the public, as people in this profession, you have to live it by example.

"If you live above board, you are reasonable apolitical in this system of change. Most journalists have abandoned their primary constituency, they are professional-political journalist. The first thing is for you to take to one profession either as a politician or as a journalist. I therefore want to appeal to you to get it right and contribute it right".

Abati while delivering the keynote address, said the partnership government seeks from media practitioner is far better facilitated when the people's needs and expectations in a democracy are met, and government works in the people's interest for the common good.

He said, "One of the revelations I stumbled upon in the course of my four-year excursion into government is that government officials and politicians do not trust journalists. They believe journalists can be bought and that the news can be fixed if the price is right. The net effect of this is the pervasive opinion in official corridors that the public information process in Nigeria can be manipulated, and the people can be made to believe what government wants.

"The over-confidence of government along this line is partly responsible for the impunity of politicians and their agents. Thus, what is missing is the value of integrity in the country’s information architecture, producing by extension, a poverty of ideas and a lamentable disconnect between policy and the public mind.

"The social media is forcing a rethinking of business models and the modes of practice by the information manager and media executive."

He disclosed that as the Special Adviser in the Nigerian Presidency between 2011 and 2015, the social media was the greatest source of agony for his office.

"As Special Adviser in the Nigerian Presidency between 2011 and 2015, the social media was the greatest source of agony for my office. While to a reasonable extent, you could expect the mainstream media to be professional, since media practice is guided by certain codes and rules, the relationship with the social media was perilous territory.

"The worst part of it all is the failure of most of our media owners to pay salaries of journalists and attend to their welfare. This places a burden on information officers and managers in government and corporate Nigeria who are expected to use their offices to maintain a large crowd of unpaid and overworked Nigerian journalists.

"The partnership that is often sought between government and the media no longer obeys an established pattern, it is now more fluid and variegated, with influential stakeholders occupying both a mass communications and a de-massified market", he said.

Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of African Newspaper of Nigeria Plc, Publishers of The Nigerian Tribune titles, Mr. Edward Dickson, represented by the Business Editor of the paper, Mr. Suleiman Olanrewaju, noted that in spite of the obvious important role of communication, "it is often neglected or undervalued in development policy, planning and execution."

He said, "This has been at a huge cost to the country because many projects have been abandoned or destroyed because the people for whom such projects were made never got to know their role in sustaining such projects.

"To put in place development initiatives that will outlive their tenure, it is incumbent on government leaders to integrate communication into all development initiatives. Effective communication does not happen by happenstance, it requires careful planning and painstaking execution".



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