BusinessDay

Stakeholders adopt new code of ethics for safety of journalism in Nigeria

Being a journalist in Nigeria can be daunting as it requires one to go deep into research that could stretch for days uncovering unknown events and bringing them to the public to be more aware of the world they live in. Many a time, it can be unsafe for these set people trying to uncover stories touching on socio-political, economic, or financial affairs.

The Nigerian media industry has adopted a new code of ethics and co-regulation to address the welfare and safety of journalists, as well as other ethical and professional concerns within the industry. The decision was reached at the end of a media roundtable organised on Monday, November 14 by the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) in conjunction with the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON), and the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP).

The revised Code of Ethics of Journalists in Nigeria was contained in a communiqué issued at the end of the media roundtable, noting that a bill of rights would be incorporated into the revised code to address concerns over some industry practices that tend to undermine the welfare and safety of journalists.

The communique also stated that the revised code shall protect investigative journalism by making the public interest exception to instances where undercover methods may be used to obtain information. It will also distinguish between paid content and editorial content to preserve editorial integrity; and a new clause would be inserted to obligate journalists to promote the right of the people to know, freedom of the press, and responsibility.

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Media chiefs and operators at the roundtable also noted that the success of the co-regulation would be achieved via a workable enforcement mechanism. To achieve co-regulation, the Nigeria Press Organisation (NPO) comprising NPAN, NGE, and NUJ, along with BON, would work together to make the co-regulation system effective, particularly through the establishment of the ombudsman at local and central levels.

The revision of the existing code was predicated on the observation that the existing 1998 code is out-dated, not robust enough, and too general in nature. The committee was mandated to develop a framework for a generally acceptable, workable, and trusted self-regulatory platform for the industry, both at the local and central levels.

The communiqué was jointly signed by Kabiru A. Yusuf, president of NPAN/NPO; Mustapha Isah, president of NGE; Chris Isiguzo, president of NUJ; Maureen Chigbo, president of GOCOP, and Yemisi Bamgbose, the executive secretary, BON.

The communique noted that efforts must be made to avoid the creation of bureaucratic structures that may have high-cost implications and therefore constitute obstacles to the efficient operation of the ombudsman. It also reads that sanctions for the violation of ethical codes and professional standards shall be determined by the Ombudsman, guided by the regulation.

“That media professional bodies and associations shall partner with media organisations to give wide publicity to the decisions of the Ombudsman,” the communique said.