By Micheal Joseph Okon
“Mike, NUJ of which am a member is today being ran like a political party with mushroom groups. Apart from the Chapels which the Union’s constitution recognises, we now have groups like Young Journalists Forum, NUJ Youth Wing, Women Wing, and the other room wing. The leadership cannot sanitize it cos he will need them at the next election. So you see the dilemma. Whether one has requisite qualifications or not, as much as he or she works in a local tabloid and can pay dues, that person becomes a journalist. It’s so shameful. If a newspaper vendor today begins to publish a newspaper, He becomes Publisher and Editor in Chief and that automatically confers him a journalistic hero. It’s a shame.” – (Aniefiok Macaulay, former Akwa Ibom Bureau Chief of Independent Newspapers).
At first,I thought my mind was playing tricks on me when the inspiration to ponder on the ethical issues surrounding standardized Journalism as practiced in Akwa Ibom crept and engulfed me. I am not a Journalist, so technically speaking,I am not a professional news purveyor but I believe in effective and responsible Journalism. When I read unbiased reportage, I often see hope and learn a lot,yet very few acclaimed Journalist know the value the society places on them. The task of being a successful Journalist is enormous and like Teacher’s age long adage, their reward was meant to be in heaven. Gosh! not in this age and time,heaven starts here for the Dicks,Toms and Harrys with the power of blackmail to swindle a few dimes from their victim or satisfy pay masters while sacrificing professionalism for selfish gratification.
The comment above depicts the extend of decay and rot this hallowed Profession has sunk into. It makes one wonder if NUJ is now a Political Party of some sort or an open clique of “deplorables”, a free for all fight down the street craft for peasants. Journalism is a trade for class,Integrity and honour, it’s not an all comers show.
Of recent, journalists in Akwa Ibom have been on each others throat, seeking to have the last draw of blood,bent on having the last say,hoping to stand as King above a Fellow Dog. The Fourth Estate has fallen and the fall is monumental,many wonder if she is redeemable. Methinks She is.
When journalists lose sight of their essence, abuse sets in and societal destruction instead of construction prevails. The damage done so far by corrupt journalists roams and constantly creates gloom and doom for a people, for we are what we read. Some journalists are like demon possessed only good for hypnotic sugar coated concoction of invocations capable of tearing peaceful coexistence apart. They love to see hatred prevailing for another except they have their way. Nothing is as destructive as a vengeful journalist with zero self control seeking for a fair share in a pound of flesh.
A journalist who took side in the last plum job,and whose side lost,has refused to forgive, forget and move on, even as his principal had done knowing that election is over and that governance had begun. This young self acclaimed Journalist ,I will call him Saul, for there is yet hope for his redemption to Paul has thrown caution into the wind and like his kind have brought disrepute to the noble profession. He and his cronies are trampling on the code of honour required of trained journalists.
If NUJ is open for all, just for the sake of winning leadership elections, I plead that those quacks be given refreshers courses that will keep them in tune with the ethics of the profession.I feel obliged to remind our journalists what the society expects of them, and i feel inclined to the following lines from renowned journalist Dan Agbese.
“The first attempt to provide Nigerian journalists with such a code was made in 1978 by the Nigerian Press Organisation, NPO. The organisation was made up of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria. The Nigerian Guild of Editors and the Nigerian Union of Journalists. It issued what it called Code of Honour for Nigerian journalists. The eight point code stipulates as follows:
1) That the public is entitled to the truth and that only correct information can form the basis for sound journalism and ensure the confidence of the people.
2) That it is the moral duty of every journalist to have respect for the truth and to publish or prepare for publication only the truth to the best of his knowledge.
3) That is the duty of the journalist to publish only facts; never to suppress such facts as he knows; never to falsify either to suit his own purposes, or any other purposes.
4) That it is the duty of the journalist to refuse any reward for publishing or suppressing news or comments, other than salary and allowances legitimately earned in the discharge of his professional duties.
5) That the journalist shall employ all legitimate means in the collection of news, and he shall defend at all times the right to free access, provided that due regard is paid to the privacy of individuals.
6) That once information has been collected and published, the journalist shall observe the universally accepted principle of secrecy and shall not disclose the source of his information obtained in confidence.
7) That it is the duty of the journalist to regard plagiarism as unethical.
That it is the duty of every journalist to correct any published information found to be incorrect.
This Code of Honour does qualify as a code of ethics for Nigerian journalists. It prescribes the limits of ethical standards.”
If today was Judgement day,and our journalist brother Saul stood before the great white throne,facing the founding fathers of Journalism as they recite to him the Ethical standard of his accidental profession, he sure would plead guilty as charged.
“Blessed are they with Integrity for their Breaking News shall not end up breaking them”
Journalism is not a job for materialism nor mortal fame, too many acclaimed journalists have made themselves the news,they are excited when their names constantly come up even in notoriety of shame not worthy of mention among infidels.
“Blessed are the compassionate, for they shall not forget, they are dealing with people.”
Writing without compassion and consideration of the general good of the state, spreading falsehood for a fee, demeaning fellow humans just to score cheap political points, Judging instead of reporting, taking sides instead of being fair and impartial.
Today, we can hardly separate reporters, journalists from politicians.
“The Ethical Journalism Network (EJN) published report is gathering data and stories from distinguished journalists from 18 countries representative of different regions (Western Balkans, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Turkey, UK and Ukraine) that exposes how media managers are doing “deals” with advertisers to carry paid-for material disguised as news, how editors are being bribed by politicians or corporate managers and how this whole process makes it increasingly difficult to separate journalism from propaganda from public relations.” EJN
If you are a reporter,report accurately, keep your personal angst away from meddling with facts, distorting same to suit the highest bidder. For honour sake, let Journalists who have graduated from the principles of the profession to politricks no more hide behind an occupation meant for decent characters to spite the innocent. Journalism is not assumptions nor fictions, you have the right to information legally on demand, no need resorting to cock and bull story telling for mere entertainment.
Its High time we oppose hypocrisy in Journalism, exposing those you hate and covering the ones you favour is unethical in all ramifications. Hypocrites have taken centre stage and are poisoning innocent gullible minds. The society is hungry for accurate and timely information, not mortal fame attention seekers wanting to be Mark Zuckerberg in one stroke of breaking false and unverified news.
“Blessed are the open minded for their Job is Reporter not Judge”
Micheal Joseph Okon Is the International President Coalition Of Youth Leaders(CYL) In Akwa Ibom State.