VP Osinbajo tasks media on social responsibility

Cyril Okonkwo, Lagos

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Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has challenged the media in the country to show greater awareness of the sensitiveness and sensibilities of society, stating that progress and order depend upon the responsible exercise of freedom.

Osinbajo stated this on Thursday in Lagos at the launch of the “Making of The Nigerian Flagship: A Story of The Guardian,” a book co-authored by two former reporters of one of Nigeria’s daily newspapers.

The vice president acknowledged the provision of the freedom of expression in the Nigerian constitution but pointed out that the end result of failure to exercise it with responsibility would be anarchy.

“It is true that freedom of expression is enshrined in our constitution. But we all agree that society, progress and order depend upon the responsible exercise of freedom otherwise the end result will be anarchy.

As we struggle to build our nation with the bricks of mutuality, plurality and tolerance, I would suggest that those of us that stand as gatekeepers in the fourth estate must demonstrate a greater awareness of the sensibilities and sensitivities of our society” , he said.

Flagship of the Nigerian Press
Osinbajo said that The Guardian, also described as the flagship of the Nigerian press, has, over the years, embodied “a fidelity to the principle of balance, objectivity and fair-hearing not only as a corporate culture but also as a moral obligation to the larger society; that insistence by the gatekeeper that leads are well investigated and reports well researched before the copy is passed for publication; the restraint to leave out a claim when in doubt.”

 “The Guardian hacked to the proud and illustrious tradition of the Nigerian press that practiced journalism with a social mission and a commitment to speaking truth to power.

It played an important role in the struggles that birthed our democracy suffering proscription and the firebombing of its business offices at Rutam House.

Alex Ibru narrowly survived an assassination attempt in which he was severely wounded.

Years later I confronted the horror of the attack on him myself when as Attorney General it was my lot to prosecute his assailants.

It was a reflection of the terrible costs that journalists bore as they continued to heroically ply their craft as an act of resistance against tyranny. 

For decades, the men and women that work at The Guardian have drawn inspiration from the immortal words of Uthman Dan Fodio on its masthead: “‘Conscience is an open wound. Only truth can heal it.

It is the role of journalists to tell the truth even when it is inconvenient. This mission has a special resonance in this day and age”, he added.

Threat to liberal tradition
Vice President Osinbajo pointed out that even as Nigeria strives to make governance more transparent and accountable as well as to abandon the secrecy and opacity of the era of military rule, it has also been realized that the abuse of power is not only the threat to liberal tradition.

“Right now, we also have to deal with issues such as the proliferation of fake news.

Almost daily, fake news or mischievously manipulated news is trafficked with the clear intent of warping the perception of reality and inducing conflict.   

It is said that journalism is the first rough draft of history; it is true that reportage shapes the perception and understanding of events.

It shapes memories and can influence behaviour. There are arguably no bigger influencers than those who report and interpret the world to us.

This is considerable power and it comes with responsibility”, he said.

New standard
Osinbajo said that “The Guardian” set a new standard about four decades ago that has transformed the practice of journalism in Nigeria.

“Today a more complex media and information landscape requires a corps of professionals to set new standards and raise the quality of the fare on offer.

The pioneers of The Guardian understood that journalism operates in a social context and cannot be value-neutral.

This same cognitive commitment is incumbent upon all media practitioners today.

We are at a time in our national odyssey in which retailers of discord and merchants of strife are working assiduously against our collective potential as a people.

Creating commonality of purpose in ethnically and culturally diverse societies is challenging the world over.

However, nation-building is not the sole preserve of politicians and governments; in fact, it is just as much a task for civil society of which the press is an important member.”

Speaking on the book, “Making of The Nigerian Flagship: A Story of The Guardian,” written by Aaron Ukodie and O’seun Ogunseitan, Osinbajo said that “it is a mosaic of memories by different generations of alumni of The Guardian.”

Readability
The Chairman of the event, former Governor of Ogun State, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, said the idea of the founder of “The Guardian”, the late Mr. Alex Ibru, was to start a newspaper that would be intellectual in approach and readable to the people.

Osoba said that “The Guardian” is the first newspaper in Nigeria that had an editorial board.

“It is the first newspaper in Nigeria that does not just write the news; it will write the news, analyze the news, give the background to the news and make commentary to the news,” Osoba stated and called on the publisher of the newspaper, Mrs. Maiden Ibru, to ensure that the standard of writing in-depth news is kept.

The publisher of “The Guardian”, Mrs. Ibru, noted that the book was an independent project of the authors and commended the authors for honouring her late husband and founder of the “The Guardian”, Mr. Alex Ibru.

Mrs. Ibru said that the newspaper was working towards restructuring into a multi-media outfit.

She also made comments on various topical issues in Nigeria and appealed to government to assist the media in the country with a stimulus package.

One of the authors of the book, Aaron Ukodie, said that the idea of the book was to document their times at The Guardian, the recollections of those who worked there and the passion that stirred those who worked at the newspaper.

 

Nneka Ukachukwu

 

 

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