By Kolawole Olayinka, Abeokuta
As Catholic Church all over the world celebrates World Communications Day, the Catholic Bishop of Abeokuta Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Peter Olukayode Odetoyinbo has advocated on the need for journalists to practice what he described as “emphatic” journalism for the service of humanity and growth of the country.
Bishop Odetoyinbo, who said this in his message to mark the 55th World Communication Day, advised journalists to resist the temptation of playing the scripts of those that desire the disintegration of Nigeria for selfish and inordinate ambitions.
He said: “It is in this light that we remind media agents to understand their important role in nation-building. While they strive to keep the citizenry abreast of current events in our society, they must realize that their activities play a major role in impacting public opinion and pattern of thinking.
“Their platforms should not be ready tools for extremist ideologies or tribal sentiments, but a medium to offer solutions to the myriads of problems besieging our country. This calls for moral uprightness and service to humanity.
“While we thank once more our gallant media men and women at the vanguard of news reporting for their courage and commitment in the face of apparent risks as they carry out their work, we like to admonish them to jettison stories that divide rather than unite us.
“They must not allow the crave for financial gains to distract them from their prophetic roles as watchmen and women. National peace and unity should be their goal even as they chronicle events around us; this should be our common pledge and desire. Let the users and consumers of social media be responsible with what they post and consume.”
He noted that an empathic journalism does not only see news reporting as a game of words and numbers, but one that recognizes the joy, pain, success stories or challenges of the individuals that constitute the subject of news.
He warned against relying on the testimonies of a section of the human society or some privileged individuals to tell the stories of events around us in a way that preserves their hegemony or socio-political relevance rather than create an avenue for direct encounter with people.
“As advocated by Pope Francis, media practitioners and all of us are enjoined to go and see things for ourselves; spend time with people, listen to their stories and present their situations without bias or misrepresentation. This will definitely constitute the foundation of an empathic journalism”, Bishop Odetoyinbo said.
“Empathic journalism is, therefore, a call to go beyond mere media reporting to creating physical encounters and engagement with the citizenry by listening to their stories of satisfaction, joy, frustrations, pain or agitations in order to convey their messages of hope to the right authorities or government agencies.
“Seeing beyond the need to create news that sells to creating news that corrects, confronts and opens the platform for dialogue and constructive criticisms.
“No doubt this requires some courage particularly in the face of threat or oppression as they discharge their duties.
“An empathic journalism puts the security and wellbeing of the citizenry at the forefront of its activities with the readiness to set out and the desire to observe with curiosity and openness,” he added.