The Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Rev. Fr. Matthew Hasan Kukah and some renowned media experts have asked that the media should be allowed to self regulate, urging lawmakers to desist from enacting media regulation law.
Speaking in Abuja on the topic: “The Media and the Defence of the Civic Space,” organized by the Kukah Centre in conjunction with OSIWA and the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation, the panelists submitted that the media has enough mechanism to regulate itself and does not need any new law.
The team of panelists include respected practitioners: Executive Director/CEO, Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, Motunrayo Alaka; former Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief, The Guardian and Fellow, Weatherhead Centre, Harvard University, Emeka Izeze; the Managing Director, Arise News, Christian Ogodo; the Head of Current Affairs, DAAR Communications Plc, Amaechi Anakwue; and Digital Media Strategist and International Speaker, JJ Omojuwa.
Izeze said Nigeria civil space predate government as we have been having civilize conversations in the country that make us Nigerians despite our social, cultural and religious dichotomy.
He said Nigerian civil space has grown in leaps and bounds, and has been responsible for the political development of the country, from colonial rule, through first republic to military rule, then second republic back to military rule until the New democratic governance.
Izeze said the civil space unfortunately is threatened now even more than under the military dictatorship and there is now need to return to the vibrant Nigerian civil space which makes Nigerian different and distinct from any other nationalities.
On his part, Christian Ogodo said the universe is made smaller by technology which has brought everybody together and has changed the civil space, making everyone a practitioner.
He said it has become impossible to clampdown on the media like it was done in the past when journalists could easily been locked up.
He said with the advent of the social media, everyone is now a journalist on the move, insisting however that many with the prerequisite training have brought new challenges that need to be addressed.
He however said that both traditional and social media have mechanisms to weed off the chaff and should be allowed to grow unimpeded.
Anakwue said Nigeria used to have active civil space before independence which continued to expand until 1999 but now we have witnessed a space that is shrinking, lamenting that “corruption has affected everything and the media is being swallowed.”
He added that the pressure that has made it difficult for traditional media to effectively function is now taking up by the social media.
Alaka said the civil space is now tensed and facing uncertainties at the moment in the country, calling on the media being the oldest institution of democracy to come out to play the role assigned to it by the constitution.
She said: “The fact we see today is that the legislators despite the fact that they should be representatives of the people are representing themselves.”
She however said: “Good that we have the social media to broaden the civil space but it has brought with it its challenges.”
Omojuwa said there should be accountability for the active participants on the civil space, insisting that you cannot asked for accountability when you cannot yourself be held accountable.
All the panelists, however admitted that the media has in-built mechanisms to regulate its practitioners and need no external control or new laws.
In his keynote address, the Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Rev. Fr. Matthew Hasan Kukah said the advent of the social media which has created “journalists” all over is not necessary a bad thing.
He likened journalists to the faith community, insisting that “journalism and faith community are the same, just like the faith community where we have churches all over, the advent of social media has created journalists and editors everywhere.”
He however said there is no need for government to introduce regulation as it is left for the people to decide which medium to be trusted.