Let me begin by saying how extremely honoured and delighted I am to be privileged to host media practitioners from all over Nigeria who are here to recognize excellent performances.
On behalf of myself, the Government and people of Osun State, I wish to welcome, once again, participants at the biggest media excellence event in Africa to our dear State.
I salute in particular, the doyens and veterans of this noble profession who have over the years demonstrated a commendable commitment to the emergence of an enviable standard in the media profession. Permit me, at this point, to make an allusion to the evolution of the media.
In my own understanding, the media is a term used to describe mass media that focus on news. These include print-media, broadcast media stations and increasingly, Internet-based media. Usually, the term includes all working journalists and is often used by those who would make generalization about the products of journalists.
“We cannot escape history”, famous American President, Abraham Lincoln once said in his address to the American congress. Mass information- dissemination is believed to have started in year 1453 when Johannes Gutenberg printed the Bible, using his printing press. Nicephore Niepce took the first permanent photograph in 1825, while telegraphy, was developed in England and the United States in 1830.
Back home in Nigeria , the ascendancy of the media could be traced to the publication of the first newspaper, Iwe-Irohin Yoruba; in Abeokuta , in 1859, by Revd. Henry Townsend, an English missionary. Ever since, the Nigerian media has made significant contributions to the political and socio-economic development of our country as a vital and vibrant tool for progress.
The early practitioners, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Herbert Macauley, Obafemi Awolowo, Ernest Ikoli and H. O. Davies paved the way for great media practitioners like Babatunde Jose, Alade Odunewu, Peter Enahoro, Henry Odukomaiya, MCK Ajuluchukwu and Lateef Jakande who were forerunners to brilliant minds like Areoye Oyebola, Segun Osoba, Gbolabo Ogunsanwo, Stanley Macebuh, Felix Adenaike, Peter Ajayi, Dele Giwa, Ray Ekpu, Lade Bonuola and Dan Agbese.
Mention must also be made of names of broadcast media practitioners like Segun Olusola, Isola Folorunso, Christopher Kolade, Kunle Adeleke, Adebayo Faleti, Revd. Badejo, Vincent Maduka, Teju Oyeleye and lately, Tonnie Iredia, noted for his very incisive interviews.
Given the excellent performances of these great Nigerians, it should be naturally expected that media practitioners should be more knowledgeable than the public, they are attempting to inform. Side by side with this development, is the fact that a journalist that is untrained is worse than his or her counterpart who is physically constrained.
It is therefore worth reminding media practitioners and particularly their employers of the need to pay particular attention to the training and re-training of media practitioners.
Let me recall, at this point, that our administration, upon inception, promised to run an open administration characterized by transparency, fairness and responsiveness. We have, therefore, operated a policy that allows media practitioners an almost unrestricted access to Government functionaries, facts and other information required for the performance of their duties. This is in consideration of our belief that media practitioners, as watchdogs of the society, must be assisted to perform their duties creditably and responsibly in the overall interest of the entire society.
It is most gratifying to note that the press has shown an understanding for this position of Government by reporting the activities of our administration objectively and without fear or favour.
Let me point out that our administration is not averse to criticisms. We will, however, cherish criticisms done in good faith with the intention of drawing our attention to lapses with a view to keeping us on the right track. Government will, therefore, continue to be receptive to ideas, suggestions and corrections which could assist in the development of our dear State.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is important that I dwell briefly on the issue of the freedom of the Press. Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, stipulates that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. Similarly, section 6, sub-section 1 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria holds that: “every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information without interference” . These declarations undoubtedly give wide latitude to media practitioners for effective performance but do not confer on them the legitimacy to misinform the populace.
In essence, practitioners must always realize the fact that being in the media does not give them absolute authority to damage or injure the reputation of innocent people or wage a media war against constituted authority in a manner that negates the laws of the land. Such could amount to infringement on the rights of others who also have the right to seek redress for damages or injuries to their reputation.
One other issue of paramount importance is your exercise of the gate-keeping functions of the media. All media practitioners, consciously or sub-consciously exercise this very important role.
More often than not, emphasis has been placed on the reporting of negative events over and above other positive issues.
I must not end this address without touching on the very controversial term: “yellow journalism”, which tends to refer to unethical conducts on the part of media practitioners.
It is important in modern times for the media to strive for objectivity and credibility at all times. Yellow journalism is unprofessional and detrimental to the principles of journalistic integrity as a whole.
We all know that the picture one gets of the world is a product of the communicator’ s bias. The Western media is very guilty of the publication of conflict and catastrophic news about our society.
Most cases tend to tilt towards biases on the part of media organizations, which sensationalize, and make propaganda to take dominance over factual accounts.
It is important that we do bear in mind the need for patriotism to come into play while presenting our society to the outside world.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, let me enjoin you to eschew bribery and corruption in all their facets. As one of the strongest and most powerful institutions, the media must avoid and resist temptations from all quarters or other forms of largesse or enticements, which could make you, deviate from the noble objective of practicing your profession with your heads raised above your shoulders.
I must state that I am not unaware of the multifarious problems confronting the media, especially in the developing world. One of these is the inability of the media to be self-sustaining with the attendant consequence of irregular payment of salaries and wages to employees. A radically new approach is therefore suggested to combat this problem headlong.
Given the demands of the fluid and dynamic world in which we reside, the media must brace up to face the challenges of these trying times. If you carry along with you integrity, which has an inestimable value, you will reap the fruit while you are in the system, and more importantly, after your exit.
Before ending this address, I wish to implore you to create the time to explore our very rich cultural heritage. We are privileged to harbour several ancient settlements and monuments, which should ordinarily interest visitors to our State. As you all know, this is the centre of Yorubaland and the foremost repository of Yoruba customs and traditions.
I feel sure that you will find in our people, highly hospitable personalities who are determined to take Osun State to greater heights.
Your Excellencies, Kabiyesis, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is on this note that I wish, to once again, finally congratulate the Nigerian Media Merit Awardees with the charge that they should continue to strive for excellence.
* Gov Oyinlola delivered this address at this year’s edition of Nigerian Media Merit Awards held at Ada, Osun state on Saturday, 17th November 2007