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At Conflict-sensitive Workshop, Participants Call for Insurance for Journalists

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Coming from a three-day training for journalists and spokespersons of security agencies in Nigeria on conflict-sensitive communication and reporting organized by Diamond Awards for Media Excellence (DAME), Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP), the participants including the journalists underlined the need for journalists to be insured.

The workshop which held at Aldgate Congree Resort in Port Harcourt on March 10 to 12as part of a series as the workshop had earlier held in Abuja, Kano and Jos had its objective as “towards a more secure Nigeria” with methodology being through presentation, discussions, case studies, syndicate, question and answer sessions.

Facilitators were drawn from the academic, media and field experts. They include Dr. Taslim Ayobami Hammed, Senior Lecturer, Department of Guidance and Counselling, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria; Prof. Umaru Pate of the Department of Mass Communication, Bayero University, Kano; Prof. Nosa Owens-Ibie, Dean, College of Social and Management Sciences, Caleb University, Imota, Lagos; Mr. Dapo Olrunyomi, the editor-in-chief of Premium Times; Mrs. Tinu Odugbemi, Executive Director, Headhigh International and former Chair, Lagos Chapter of the National Association of Women Journalists; Dr. Ukoha Ukiwo, Manager, Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme, Abuja; Dr. Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika, Associate Professor and Acting Head, Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Akoka, Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria; Dr. Bisi Olawunmi, Lecturer, Department of Mass Communication, Bowen University, Iwo, Osun State, Nigeria.

Contents include Understanding Conflicts, The Media and Conflict-sensitive Reporting, Managing Information: Challenges of the Spokesman, Counting the cost of Injurious Reporting – The examples of Sierra Leone, Kenya and Rwanda, Safety and Trauma, Partnership that works: Overcoming the mutual suspicion between the media and security Spokespersons, Conflict Reporting and Gender Sensitivity.

After a roundtable session where all the issues raised from day one of the workshop were addressed, a communiqué was drawn up. In the communiqué, participants called insurance policies for journalists in the performance of their duties especially in conflict-prone areas and other areas as they added that lack of insurance cover for journalists affects coverage of conflict-prone issues. It was for this reason that they urged media organisations to take out life insurance policies for their personnel.

Some of the observations of the workshop are that conflicts are inevitable in human relationships and can be positively managed but violent conflicts are inimical to nation building; sources of conflicts in the Niger Delta zone include unhealthy ethnic rivalry, environmental degradation arising from oil exploration and exploitation, perceived discrimination, marginalization, and corruption in the allocation of resources, power struggle over perceived sense of exclusion, and neglect of host communities; media sensationalism tends to distort the reality of events and should be moderated to avoid overheating the polity and continuous interaction and positive relationship management between spokespersons and journalists will help check the current frosty relationship.

Recommendations of the communiqué include that journalists should avoid reporting conflicts from narrow perspectives and be more sensitive to the needs of the most vulnerable segment of society such as women, children and the physically-challenged; decried hate speeches and dangerous comments in the media and called on journalists and spokespersons to be sensitive to the incalculable harm they could cause in the country, charged the media to promote peace and stability of the country, boost the efforts of the security forces in their reportage, and avoid anything that can demoralize them, advised organizations to involve their spokespersons more in management decision making processes and recommended that spokespersons should be integrated into security/military operations so that they can communicate the fight against insecurity better.

Speaking at the event, Mr. Lanre Idowu, trustee, DAME, said the workshop, the fourth in five series, has been organised to bridge the yawning gap between journalists and spokespersons of security agencies. That gap, he says, is inimical to the overall interest of the nation, particularly at such a critical time as this when the nation is confronted with the challenges of terrorism.

Mallam Zakari Mijinyawa, representative of ONSA, submitted that to enhance the concerted effort of the on-going counter terrorism exercise, it is important for the nation to inject fresh ideas anchored on deliberate building of capacities of the media and law enforcement agents and strategic communication performance.

He particularly noted that the exercise would impact greatly on the professional practice for both parties and consequently for the betterment of the society.

On his part, Dr. Ukoha Ukiwo, programme manager, NSRP, said there was need to promote fresh policies and practices in managing issues of conflicts and crisis. “We must ensure that crisis management personnel and institutions are sufficiently equipped to carry out their responsibilities”, Ukiwo noted.

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