At a media roundtable organized by the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) on November 14, 2022, the Nigerian media industry employed the adoption of new co-regulation and code of ethics to contend with ethical and professional concerns. The roundtable discussion was organized in conjunction with the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), The Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP), the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), and Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON) and the decision was agreed upon by all organizations.
According to media gurus and operators, the realization of the achievement of the co-regulation and code of ethics depends on a workable enforcement mechanism. Also, the Nigeria Press Organization (NPO) which comprises NGE, BON, NPAN and NUJ would work cooperatively to achieve the effectiveness of the co-regulation system by establishing the ombudsman at local and central levels. This cooperative establishment was embedded in a communique and convened as a strategic response to the threat of institutionalizing self-regulatory media by and for the media.
This communique incorporated a bill of rights to protect journalists.
The signing of the communique was appended by president of NPAN/NPO, Kabiru A. Yusuf; NUJ President, Chief Chris Isiguzo; BON Executive Secretary, Dr. Yemisi Bambgose; NGE President, Mustapha Isah; and GOCOP President, Maureen Chigbo. The communique asserted there must be an avoidance of creating bureaucratic structures with high-cost implications and might eventually become obstacles to the smooth operation of the ombudsman. It was also noted that “Sanctions for the violation of ethical codes and professional standards shall be determined by the ombudsman, guided by the regulation.”
Furthermore, it endorsed the partnership between media professional bodies and associations and media organizations to ensure publicity to decisions made by ombudsman. Concerning the revised Code of Ethics of Journalists in Nigeria, the communique affirmed the incorporation of a bill of rights into the revised code to settle some issues of industry practices that relegates the safety of journalists. Investigative journalism would be protected under this revised code by excluding the public interest as an undercover method of getting information.
Committee developed a self-regulatory platform for the media industry.
Another purpose of the revised code is to differentiate between paid and editorial content to aid the preservation of editorial integrity and an insertion of a new clause to oblige journalists to ensure promotion of the rights of people to know, with the inclusion of freedom of press and responsibility. The major theme of the roundtable discussion was “Pathway to Co-regulation through an Ombudsman Framework”. Presentations made in relation to the theme in two technical sessions.
During the discussion at the event, the Editor in Chief and Senior Vice Chairman of Leadership Group Limited, Mr. Azu Ishiekwene, made a presentation on the report of the NPO Committee which comprises NGE, NPAN, and NUJ which was instituted in May 2021. There was a mandatory development of a framework by the committee to create a self-regulatory platform that is widely trusted, acceptable and workable for the industry, both at the local and central levels.
A revised code of ethics emerged to update the existing one.
The second presentation was made by the Editor in Chief for Diamond Publications and founder of the Diamond Awards for Media Excellence (DAME) Trust Fund, Mr. Lanre Idowu, on the topic “A Guide through the Revised Code of Ethics for Nigerian Journalists”. Revision of the code of ethics was based on the assumption that the existing 1998 code is outdated, not strongly built and naturally general. These assumptions led to the decision of revising the code into a more robust and acceptable one.