National President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, Mr Femi Adesina yesterday shed light on the country’s media practice and development, with emphasis on the challenges facing the industry over the years.
Adesina who is also the Managing Director and Editor- in-Chief of the Sun Publishing Ltd spoke glowingly on the topic: “Media Ownership and the Challenges of Free Press” at a news makers interactive programme organised by the Association of Veteran Journalists (AVJ) in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, where he pointed out that the media, world over, had always operated under undue influence by both private and public owners, noting that the interference has been posing a lot of threat to free press and media development.
He lamented that free press, which would have facilitated robust journalism practice and its attendant effect on the socio-political and economic development, has been at the mercy of ownership, stressing that both public and private media owners tend to apply censor on their outfits, based on their predetermined motives, thereby making it difficult for media houses to operate within the limits of the ethics of the profession.
“Ownership always has a role to play in the operation of the media house. But when ownership intrudes too much in the editorial powers of the paper, it can easily die,” Mr Adesina said matter of fact.
“The danger is that, such ownership influence or interference can erode the credibility of the paper and make it unpopular, and this has been the bane of media growth and development globally,” he added.
He, therefore, cautioned against such influence through what he described as censorship and urged the owners to give their media managers and editors a ‘free hand to run their organisations with professionalism.
Adesina, however, attributed media owners’ penchant to influence their media outfits to what he called predetermined motive which is mostly business, noting that without such influence, they might not be able to achieve the motive.
He, however, commended a few owners who have given free hand to their media leaders to run the outfit professionally which, he enthused, has also helped the growth of their outfits. He cited the former governor of Abia state and publisher of The Sun newspapers, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu as one of such.
The media guru also cautioned that journalists must endeavour to maintain their professional ethics and integrity by eschewing any form of compromise so as not to drag the profession in the mud, especially when they are under pressure to do the bidding of their bosses.
Still speaking on the challenges of free press, Adesina also lamented the menace of social media in the industry and cited instances of online operators who feed the reading public with wrong and fallacious information on their sites. He, therefore, called for control and regulation by social media experts and their organisations to ensure sanity in the system.
He also bemoaned media professionals’ inability to own media houses, due to financial incapacitation, saying that as a result, private owners dominate media ownership scene.
“In Mexico, Colombia, and some others, drug lords and cartels own media houses and determine what to be published, leading to under reporting and abuse of the ethics of the profession,” he said.
“Low free press rate is a global challenge as only 14 percent of the world has free press. In other words, censorship is an issue in the media industry. Until media professionals set up and own media houses, the system remains the same,” he added.
Adesina also bemoaned media owners’ lackadaisical attitude towards protecting journalists. According to him, journalists’ welfare is never given a top priority by many media owners, adding however that there are a few exceptions in Nigeria.
“This also goes a long way in negatively affecting press freedom and ethical conduct because some journalists would compromise the ethics of the profession to be able to survive”, he stressed.
Still harping on the seeming impossibility in achieving absolute free press, he noted that even if media professionals own media houses, they could also tend to bend the rule, as they, too, would want to achieve their motive to survive in the competitive industry, noting that freedom always has its boundaries.
He concluded that: “no press freedom can be absolute. We must live with it.”