Ekpu likens journalists to dogs at public lecture

Posted by Effiong Udousoroh, Uyo | 4 March 2015 | 4,442 times

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A renowned media expert in Nigeria, Mr. Ray Ekpu, has likened Nigerian journalists to three dogs but gave a preference to watch dog for the purpose of delivering unbiased reports to the public.

In his key note address at a two-day workshop on ‘Responsible Reporting of The 2015 General Elections in Akwa Ibom State’, organised for media practitioners and civil society organisations in Uyo, the media executive, stressed the need for cooperation among reporters, election stakeholders and other officials, in reporting and interpreting the news.

“But the journalist must not and should not descend from this noble status to that of a lap dog. Let me indicate that there are, for the purpose of this discourse, three types of dogs, namely: a lap dog, an attack dog and a watch dog”, the media chief stated.

“A lap dog is a docile, compliant and non ferocious lackey. It neither barks, nor bites. An attack dog is hostile, belligerent and bites with or without provocation”, he stated, adding that “A watch dog is a sane, calm and calculating animal that discriminates between friends and foes. It bites when necessary and barks when danger is on the way.”

He pointed out: “This is the specie of dog that a good journalist ought to be. Not an attack dog and not a lap dog, but a true watch dog of the people’s interest, with a sharp instinct for right and wrong”.

Ekpu advised that a wise and fair reporter does not and must not always look at his work with adversarial and oppositional intention. Setting up a shop as an opposition, he maintained, can breed antagonism and conflict.

“That is the small picture. But a fair journalist must look at the big picture in order to be able to give new meaning and meat,” he said.

He noted that there had been a groundswell of public disaffection over blatant unprofessionalism. These, he added, are related to various incidents that hurt the people who are in the news, warning that there was a devastating verdict on the media. “Some other persons have said without batting an eyelid: ‘I don’t read newspapers anymore”.

He, however, stated that in this era of campaigns and elections, many people want to read newspapers and listen to radio and television. But the problem, according to him, is that, at times like this, there is often a lot of unprofessionalism and a lot of bias by journalists, in their attempt to influence the voters for or against some parties or candidates, and their bias is sometimes explicit and sometimes hidden.

Ekpu, defined bias as “failing to be truthful, impartial, objective or balanced”. He quoted John Street in his book, “Mass Media Politics and Democracy”, and pointed out that “there are four types of bias which can be distinguished by their place in a two-dimensional matrix. The first concerns the explicitness of the bias-open or hidden. The second dimension concerns the intention behind it, whether the bias is of some deliberate policy or a product of some ingrained and unconscious process.”

The media personality, listed four types of bias as, “partisan bias, propaganda bias, unwitting bias and ideological bias”.

He stated, “Some people will tell you that there is a great deal of bias in Nigerian media, especially during periods of elections.

“So the following questions could be asked: “Do Nigerian journalists practice their profession as independent persons or as the hired guns of politicians? Are they controlled by the owners of their media or big advertisers?”

He, however, said that, bias was not indigenous to Nigeria and not only Nigerian politicians that complain about bias in their media, citing other countries like, Russia, Britain and Australia, as examples of nations whose media engaged in bias.

The 1987 International Editor Award Winner in New York, observed that apart from the social media, a lot of newspapers in the states of the federation had assumed that campaigns and elections have granted them the license to kill, kill people’s reputations and carriers, as well as inflict incalculable harm on the psyche of their families.

Ekpu expressed his belief that the government of Akwa Ibom State has done several notable things that are worthy of praise. “But in recent times, I have heard the expression, ‘uncommon propaganda’, a way of twisting in a rather cynical way, the expression, ‘uncommon transformation’ being the state government’s way of describing its infrastructural achievements. Such is the nature of politics. So, as journalists, we have a responsibility to separate the wheat from the chaff, but not to throw away the baby with the bath water.”

“We can contribute to the success or failure of the elections by way and manner we report the campaigns and the elections”, the media expert advised.

Over 300 participants including heads of security organisations attended the workshop.

Other eminent personalities at the occasion included, Archbishop Emmanuel Udofia (JP) of Methodist Archdiocese of Uyo;  Mr. John Akpan, the Workshop Coordinator; Elder Patrick Albert, Chairman, NUJ Akwa Ibom State Council, who also represented Mallam Garba Muhammed, the National President of NUJ; Prof. Dominic Akpan of Department of History and International Studies, University of Uyo; Prof. Valerie Solomon, Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension, University of Uyo;  Dr. Umanaette Udoh, former Accountant General in Akwa Ibom State Civil Service.

•Photo shows Ray Ekpu.

Source: News Express

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