The Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, said effective and professional dissemination of information is vital to peaceful coexistence, national cohesion, social stability, economic growth and political development.
Elumelu stated this at the capacity-building workshop for members of the Press Corps of the House of Representatives organised by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, and the National Assembly Management.
Elumelu said the focus of the workshop was to equip journalists covering the activities of the House with the necessary skills and proficiency to effectively report the intricate and strenuous processes, procedures and practices of the legislature, which is not only apt but also very imperative.
The Minority Leader reiterated that an equipped media would not only report facts but also help shape opinion and put the legislature on its toe for the good of the country.
He pointed out that the media, therefore, has the burden to not only report facts but also to adhere to the principles of information gatekeeping and social responsibility.
According to him, “It is instructive to state that while we give all support to the entrenchment of press freedom, the media must also endeavour to respect the rights of others and operate within the ambit of the law.
“With the advent of social media comes the influx of amateurs and quacks in addition to the challenges of fake news, inaccurate reporting, and misrepresentation of facts, with their serious negative impact on our society.
“The frenzy for breaking news results in abuse of professional checks and information gatekeeping. Gory contents, including photographs and videos that do more harm to our society, are posted without restraint and control.”
Elumelu stressed that such has led to unpleasant social consequences sometimes resulting in avoidable violence social unrest, sectional animosity and hostility, personal losses, economic hardship, depression, breakdown of relationships, killings and even suicide.
He said this challenge has brought serious debate regarding the regulation of social media in Nigeria while calling on professionals in the media industry to come together to assist in finding a way through those challenges.
The lawmaker said another area of concern is the remuneration and welfare of journalists, decrying the condition and environment in which journalists practice as well as the challenges of ownership in the industry.
He noted that journalists work under a very hazardous circumstance, saying the task can be frustrating in the absence of proper remuneration, as he added that such a situation opens practitioners up to lures towards unwholesome practices.
Elumelu, therefore, urged the workshop to come up with suggestions and recommendations on issues of welfare and safety of journalists, fake news as well as the demands of social responsibility in the industry.
Also, the Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila described the media as an integral part of democracy.
Gbajabiamila, who was represented by the Deputy Chief Whip, Hon. Nkiruka Onyejeocha, said the media as the fourth estate of the realm is important and relevant, adding that anything that has to do with the media should be given the seriousness that it deserves by all lovers of democracy.
While delivering his paper titled: ‘Understanding Powers of the Nigeria Legislature and the Role of Media in Promoting Rule of Law’, Prof. Offornze Amucheazi said there was a need for media professionals to sanitise the industry from ‘tout’ bent on polluting the profession.
He said: “All over the world, you cannot have unregulated media. When you regulate the media, people’s rights are not trampled on.”
Amucheazi was of the opinion that the smooth running of the symbiotic relationship between the legislature and the media is critical to the promotion of rule of law in Nigerian democracy.