The Director of the International Press Centre (IPC), Mr. Lanre Arogundade, has demanded a retraction of the statement credited to Kaduna-based Islamic scholar that 'journalists are criminals' and also urged the media to take a stand on herdsmen's terrorism, kidnapping and acts of brigandage.
He said since the media was acting as the conscience of the society, the question of a bad report would not come in.
Arogundade who was a guest on 'The Morning Show,' a programme on ARISE NEWS Channels, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, yesterday, spoke against the backdrop of the media and sensitivity of coverage, as well as the recent comment of Gumi that journalists are criminals and reckless.
The statement by Gumi, he stated, was not just a bad precedent, but a dangerous one, adding that everybody must condemn it, demand a retraction and some actions on the part of those who can act collectively in their interest.
"For me it is very important that they should understand that ethics is a matter of individual conscience and when they are doing their stories, they should be as professional and fair in their reports as possible.
"For instance, if there are killings somewhere and people claim that it was carried out by a certain group, if you are not able to independently verify, don't assert in your report that it actually happened. You need to report it as an allegation and also try to get diverse reactions by speaking to those who should know and confirm or disprove on that," he explained.
According to him, journalists' choice of stories is a reflection of a particular bias in terms of objectivity, adding, "If a newspaper is leading with a story of the rape of young children today that is the bias of that newspaper because they are concerned about that."
The director, however, urged journalists to understand that they have the responsibility for building a peaceful society when it comes to conflict reporting, especially sensitive ones provoking ethnic tension.
He said: "Where there are problems that affect everybody, journalists must understand that they are also human beings; so when they report issues, it is also because they want to survive. We need to ensure an environment that can make our work much easier. Where we have threats, we need to deal with those threats as much as possible."
Arogundade also called on journalists to ensure that they hold leadership accountable and follow up on issues.
He said: "Apart from the president, the Zamfara State governor also made a statement that Nigeria will be shocked by those behind the recent kidnap. All these statement that do not have content, this is where we need to take them up. Why will Nigerians be shocked? What information does the governor have that cannot be passed to the security agencies so that we are saved from the problems?
"I feel that in terms of accountability function and holding leadership accountable, we shouldn't just stop at reporting this; we need to follow up on them. As much as possible, we should also separate our opinions from the facts of the matter; this is where there are challenges.
"Journalists are also human beings. So as an editor, they have an opinion you want to express. I feel that if you want to express that opinion, as a media manager, you should try and let your opinion be factually laid."
According to him, when it comes to editorials and columns, journalists are free to take a definitive stand on issues and call a spade a spade.
"If a newspaper writes an editorial or a radio station does a news analysis saying Gumi is an enemy of Nigeria, which should be okay in the realm of good journalism, but when it comes to reports, there might be people who will possibly agree with you; so, you can then be reporting it as mixed reactions creating Gumi's declaration."
He stressed the need for government to make available information to the media, noting that where credible information is lacking, rumour and others will take up space.
"They must recognise that the media is a reporter. It should not just be that we pick information here and there; that is how to deal with issues. In states where you have peculiar challenges like Oyo and Ogun, there should also be a task force that briefs the media. We must recognise that we are dealing with an emergency.
"So, when people say that the president must declare a state of emergency on insecurity, these are the elements of such a declaration," he explained.