Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: How Media Can Be Responsible in Conflict Reportage - Stakeholders

Deeply worried by the unethical attitudes displayed by members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm towards reporting conflict situations across the world, Ufuk Dialogue Foundation and Nigerian Turkish Nile University, Abuja, recently brought together media practitioners, media scholars, captains of industries, politicians and students to discuss possible ways that the media can be socially and ethically responsible in reporting conflicts.

The two-day event entitled; Media Panel: Reportism in Conflict, was held at the Lagos State University-Adebola Adegunwa School of Communication (LASUAASOC), Surulere and in Abuja at Nigerian Turkish Nile University.

At the Lagos event, held in collaboration with Lagos State University (LASU) and the Nation Newspaper, the facilitators were Mr. Abdulhamit Bilici, General Manager of Cihan News Agency and Zaman Media Group, Turkey; Mr. Lekan Otufodunrin, Online Editor, The Nation Newspaper and Mr. Tunde Akanni, lecturer at the Department of Journalism, LASUAASOC.

In his paper titled, A Responsible Media: Is it Possible?, Bilici noted that the agenda-setting power and role of the media in shaping people's lives cannot be underestimated.

Positive role

He was bothered about how the media could play a positive role in ethnic, ideological, religious or sectarian conflicts, despite a popular media aphorism which says 'bad news is good news and sells more.'

"There is no need to reiterate that the media have become a part of our lives. It is present in every field - in politics, sports, entertainment - and it is everywhere - at home, in the office and on the street.

"The media not only influence our private lives, but also give shape to our social relations. It can bring different political opinions, beliefs or cultures closer or tear them away from each other. It can even make countries enemies or make them close friends."

The media guru categorized into two, the aphorism which says 'bad news is good news.' "The first category is very real and in most cases unavoidable. Under normal conditions, if a prime minister is healthy, this is not news. If any paper or TV station reports that the prime minister is healthy today, people will laugh or start wondering if there is a hidden message behind all this. But if he faces a health problem, then it becomes news.

"The second category involves the case in which the media plays an active role to instigate, deepen or provoke potential problems or conflicts with an economic motivation to increase circulation, ratings, hits, etc. Or with an ideological motivation to take sides with one side against another more as an activist rather than as a journalist..."

In both situations, the Zaman boss advocated that "publishers, editors in newspapers, on TV, on radio and on the Internet, should act responsibly toward themselves, toward individuals, toward society and toward humanity.

If after the publishing of the caricatures in Denmark unjustifiable attacks were made on the Danish Embassy in Syria, then the seriousness of this situation should be understood.

While citing the operation of his media organisation, Zaman Media Group, in its handling of reports of conflict situation in Turkey and the world over, Bilici averred; "We have a clear position on terrorism and violence. Irrespective of the motive, we condemn any terrorist act, whether it is al-Qaeda or ethnically oriented separatist PKK terrorism.

"We do not hide our Islamic identity, but we do place a distance between Islam and terrorism. Prominent figures such as Fethullah Gülen condemned such terrorist acts in the name of Islam and we have published this several times as a headline story despite death threats.

"The Zaman Media Group strongly supports initiatives for dialogue among different cultures, religions and civilizations. We invite representatives of such groups to our conferences and editorial meetings."

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