The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Femi Gbajabiamila has tasked media practitioners to protect Nigeria’s democracy in their reportage.
Gbajabiamila made the call on Saturday at a workshop organized for members of the House of Representatives Press Corps in Abuja.
The workshop, titled “Deepening Legislative Knowledge through Critical Reporting”, was organized by the Office of the Speaker for media practitioners in Abuja.
The speaker said that democracy was a fragile construct, adding that it depended on the support of the electorate and required active participation by an informed citizenry.
Gbajabiamila said that democracy demanded competence, capacity, and integrity from those overseeing the affairs of the state, saying that it would not survive long unless both the leaders and the citizens operated within the rule of law.
According to the lawmaker, democracy also requires careful tending and robust defense as a matter of course.
“The role of the press in a democracy is multi-faceted. You inform the public and you educate them about the law and government, politics and governance.
“You record history as it happens and preserve the national memory as a guide and warning for the future.
“And you hold power to account, ensuring that those who are chosen to serve the public interest keep faith with the citizens who depend on them.
“Democracy will not long survive without a vibrant, independent, innovative and patriotic press,’’ he said.
Gbajabiamila said that while the landscape within which the press operated had changed in dramatic ways, the duties of the press and the public expectation of them remained the same.
He said it was expected of journalists and media organizations to maintain a high level of professional conduct.
The lawmaker said citizens demanded accurate reporting and detailed analysis of public policy and expected the media to continue to defend their rights, hold the powerful to account, and promote the public good through journalism practice.
Also, the spokesman for the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu (APC-Abia) tasked the media with professionalism as the country looks forward to the general elections in 2023.
According to the lawmaker, the press is at the center of successful governance, overseeing the synergy of governance and communication.
Kalu said that the press was often referred to as the fourth estate of the realm because it was a vital component of democracy.
He said the media have the explicit capacity for advocacy and the implicit capacity to frame political issues, not just for social discourse but also, for the information and consideration of the legislature and other policymakers.
“As we enter the election season, the press should center its reportage on issues and not persons. The press should avoid being misused as tools for character assassination.
“The press in this period should only project things that advance the trust in our democracy.
“The press should showcase only campaigns that tell the electorate about the candidates, their antecedents, and their objectives to enable the electorate to get educated on why they should vote for any candidate,’’ he said.
In his remarks, the Clerk to the House of Representatives, Dr. Yahaya Danzaria, said that it was true that the media owed the people obligation to report development in the polity.
He said it was important that such reports were not borne out of desperation for sensation that destroyed the democracy intended to be built and protected.
“The media is the eye and voice of the people in a democracy. The legislature is often regarded as Freedom Square because it is the only institution in a democracy where the people have the right at any time to interact directly with their representatives.
“The media is central to the success of any democracy and indeed any legislature because the media represents the people when it provides them with information and report of activities in governance and representation.
“Without the media, there cannot be a functional democracy or political participation in any democratic society.