THE Nigerian media has been urged to adequately access the benefits of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, especially in the area of investigative reporting.
Media organisations were enjoined to train journalists in the area of investigative reporting so as to put the law to test for a robust journalistic practice and strengthening of democracy. This appeal was made in Lagos by experts at the weekend.
The Dean, School of Communications, Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Lai Oso, said media organisations “must develop the required resources for investigative journalism. The FoI law is required for serious investigative journalism not for routine news reporting. Investigative journalism requires money, time and resources.”
On his part, the Executive Secretary, the Nigerian Press Council (NPC), Mr. Bayo Atoyebi, said civil societies rather than journalists were those at the forefront of testing the law, and lamented journalists’ slow response to the law in spite of the euphoria it originally generated.
Atoyebi noted: “So far, reported instances of testing the law, by invoking it and following it up, some to the courts, have come mainly from civil society organisations. Our experience at the Press Council, from the two occasions of capacity-building on the FoI law, show that familiarity and usage among journalists for now is tepid.”
Also, former President, Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Malam Garba Shehu, said the reportorial environment had remained largely untouched by the Freedom of Information law.
He said: “It should by now be clear to journalists and the other stakeholders that the problem of the flow of information in Nigeria is not one that can be solved by laws. It’s a cultural problem. In this country, we don’t have the culture of disclosure. In India, the UK and many other countries, citizens feel a sense of duty to report wrongdoings. In this country, they will just see it, keep their mouths shut and move on. All the policemen in the world cannot give Nigerians safety without the disclosure of wrongdoings.”
On his part, journalism teacher at the Lagos State University, Ojo, Mr. Tunde Akanni, challenged journalists on some sad developments, saying “there have been allegations of tax evasion on the part of some corporations but the media won’t get us further details. What about those of corrupt practices everywhere and all we have are reports of panels. This is why we miss the Next (newspaper) team characterised by investigations. They didn’t seek FoI Act to do their job interestingly. It is not for nothing that four of its members of staff have now been nominated for CNN awards besides others they won recently.”