• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Why NUJ sent letter to Buhari, requesting for media industry bailout

Nigerian Union of Journalists-NUJ

The Nigerian traditional media industry plays a big role in national socio-economic development. It is agent of information transportation on various subjects and builds public opinion. Its role in the attainment of Nigerian independence, democracy and civil rights is sine qua non.

The media is a fighter for social justice and its present role in the fight against Covid-19 is fundamental.

But the same media is presently challenged not only by plethora of complex media devices but by harsh economic environment occasioned by slow economic growth at 2.27%, which has compelled businesses to cut advertisement budgets.

The recent oil price collapse from over $70 to $30 in the international market and the continuous economic slow-down triggered by the Coronavirus pandemic are not helping matters and this situation is predicted to last for some time.

The media which is also facing high operating cost is simply going through excruciating times as revenues are steadily declining leading to months of unpaid salaries.

Worried by this development, exacerbated by the unfortunate emergence of Covid-19 late last year which has further upended industries, Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ last week, therefore appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to save the crucial industry  from collapse.

In a letter addressed directly to the President, Muhammadu Buhari, the union requested for urgent intervention of Federal Government to arrest the unfortunate trend considering the role of the media in nation building.

Specifically, the union in the letter signed by its president, Chris Isiguzo appealed for financial bailout for the media industry through the Nigerian Press Organisation, NPO, and Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria, BON for the privately owned media organisations in the country. The letter did not put figure required for the industry bailout.

The letter told President Buhari that “this is a crisis situation of monumental proportion and “we plead for your urgent intervention to avert a catastrophe”.

In the letter, the union reminded President Buhari that today, “the role of the media in national development has become more elaborate and clearer more than ever before despite the little funds available to them. Because of shrinking advertisement, cost of operation, media houses can no longer comfortably pay these costs and offset staff salaries and emoluments.

“It is instructive to note that without the media, the Covid-19 could have gone completely out of control by now”, the letter entitled ‘Convulsions in the media industry’ and dated May 13, 2020 said.

The letter expatiated that the social duties  of journalists in Nigeria include the advancement of the right to freedom of expression, access to information, conflict transformation and peace building. “These are prerequisites for open governance and development, the fight against corruption among others which ultimately serve the public interest”

According to the letter, there can be no freedom of expression and freedom of the press where journalists work under precarious situations and are exposed to poverty and fear. “Media organisations are daily being asphyxiated as a result of the economic downturn occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic”, the letter said.

But according to analysts, any possible bailout from government may result to interference, a development that may jeopardise credibility of information. A media expert simply said that “such bailout will likely shut the mouth of the owner of the media organisation”.

Any possible bailout from government can amount to gap of the press. “They pay your bills, they also dictate what you do”, a media practitioner said.