The Media Rights Agenda has called on journalists on need to sharpen their investigative reporting skills and build the confidence and ability to use the Freedom of Information Act as a tool for facilitating transparent, free, fair and credible elections.
Penpushing reports that, the Executive Director of the organization, Edetan Ojo made the call while delivering a paper titled ’Using Freedom of Information(FOI) Act for Investigative Reports on Campaign Finance and Covid-19 Accountability Issues’, held in Abuja.
The Media Training Workshop was organised by the International Press Centre (IPC) partnering with Media Rights Agenda and funded by the European Union through Component 4b: which is Support to the media of the EU Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) Project’.
Penpushing further reports that, Ojo in his paper added that, the investigating skills should also be used in monitoring how funds received and allocated for the coronavirus response are being managed and utilized.
‘There is no doubt that as media professionals, you play a primary role in this process. In addition to the nature of the work that you do which makes you ideally suited to play this role’, he said
‘Section 22 of the Constitution also specifically gives you the task of upholding the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy under Chapter Two of the Constitution as well as upholding the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people’, Ojo stated.
‘As you know, Chapter Two of the Constitution captures the basic principles and philosophy of governance in Nigeria while outlining the social and economic objectives of Government’.
‘But no matter how well the media play their role, I do not believe that their efforts can be successful if we do not have citizens that are motivated and engaged with governance processes. So we also need an active citizenry for the media professionals to be effective in playing their role’, he emphasised.
The Director explained that, the effective regulation of political campaign financing is essential to the success of our quest as a country to ensure free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.
Penpushing reports that he noted that transparency and accountability are imperative for the effectiveness of the measures taken by Governments at Federal and State levels to curtail the spread of the coronavirus and to mitigate the negative economic impact on citizens brought about by both the virus itself and the government’s measures to check its spread.
‘However, we also expect that the skills and knowledge that you will, hopefully, acquire in the course of this workshop will also come in handy in your routine journalistic work, regardless of the nature of the other issues that may be of interest to you or that you are focused on at any point in time’.
The guest lecturer emphasized further that the ultimate goal in organizing the workshop is to contribute to improving government accountability to citizens across board; hence, journalists should not sit on the fence.
‘It is my hope that if nothing else, that the COVID-19 pandemic provides sufficient motivation for all of us to be engaged in the governance process because if we are not vigilant and the funds meant for COVID-19 response are stolen, misappropriated, misapplied or in any other way diverted to other purposes, then the objectives of the response will obviously not be achieved’.
‘In such a situation, the consequences are better imagined than experienced. In such a situation, all of us, journalists or not, will be at risk. We therefore expect the workshop to engender interventions by journalists that will sensitize and enlighten Nigerian citizens about the core issues of concern as well to raise the awareness of media practitioners and ordinary citizens alike about the existence, benefits and the use the FOI Act. In other words, it is your task also to galvanize the wider media community and the society at large to action’.
‘We see the workshop as part of a process of building the capacity of the media, civil society organizations and other key stakeholders to effectively use the FOI Act to hold all relevant agencies and actors accountable during electoral processes and in the context of new realities of operating in a COVID-19 environment’.