The rampant cases of intimidation, harassment, and assault of journalists in the cause of carrying out investigative and other routine reports are fast reaching their height if not worsened in Nigeria, considering the large population of working journalists who report daily to their beat without safety provisions.
Speaking on the significance of investigative journalism and the safety of journalists in Nigeria, the Vice-Chancellor, Federal University Kashere, Gombe state, Professor Umaru Pate canvassed for adequate safety and precautionary measures for working journalists to enable them to deliver effectively on the job.
Pate insisted that “no news story worth the blood of any journalists”, and believed that only he (reporter) who is alive will break the hot story.
The renowned Professor of Media and Society spoke recently while presenting a virtual paper on investigative journalism and the safety of journalists at the opening of a two-day workshop on Rural Health Accountability (RHAP-Project), organised by Solacebase Communications, publisher of Solacebase online news platform with Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism with funding support OF MacArthur Foundation in Kano State.
Pate, who raised concern about the economic and psychological safety of journalists in Nigeria, argued that until working journalists are mentally stable to carry out the rigor of the job, it would be difficult for the reporter to hold power accountable to the people.
The university don, who recommended insurance and economic safety measures for journalists, however, challenged media organizations in the country to improve the welfare of their staff to enhance a corruption-free job.
According to Professor Pate, “Investigative journalism is a very risky venture that requires mental and psychological preparedness to avoid failure. It is for those with courage, fearless, committed, and those who know what it takes to be professional journalists. It is about ensuring transparency, accountability, and delivery of service.
“While performing this duty, however, journalists must ensure they are mentally stable. Many journalists are mentally stressed in the course of meeting daily deadlines which in turn affect their mental health, social life, and marital affairs. And sometimes in other to overcome these challenges, you have some journalists also engage in illicit activities like drug abuse and alcoholic
“In Nigeria, journalists can be cajoled in cash, and if they realize you are not likely ready for a bribe, they issue life threats, and they can even resort to eliminating your life, or they go for your family. That is why investigative journalists must be supported by their organizations.
“Media organizations must make sure remunerations are not only paid fully but promptly to guarantee economic safety of journalists because economic safety will keep the reporter’s welfare protected and that will enable the ability to do his job without thinking where do I get my next meal, where to source for transport, how to settle school fee of children. Mentally he would be dedicated to delivering job responsibility.
Professor Pate further said, “Unfortunately today, many of our media organizations have failed in this respect and the consequence is corruption in the system. Hence, media outfits should ensure journalists working under them are economically safe, psychologically protected, and physically safe.
“A serious media organization would always have a safety protocol or policy which must cover every staff of the organization, including insurance cover in a situation where you send journalists to cover a dangerous event or crisis zone.
“A study conducted in Nigeria revealed many of the media organizations in the country do not have safety policies or protocols.
“This is quite unfortunate because the profession needs such policy especially now that the country is experiencing cases of insurgency, terrorism, kidnapping, and other crises And just like any other Nigerian, journalists are equally vulnerable. This is why media organizations must invest in such policies as the provision of protection, training of journalists on safety measures on the job, the provision of insurance, and other safety policies.
“Journalists must be alive to tell the story. Hence, proprietors must support journalists for them to be healthy, psychologically, mentally, and economically active to deliver on the job and more essentially to trade on the path of credible and thorough investigative reports. This is when journalists would be able to check and hold the power that be and government accountable to the people.”
Editor-in-Chief, Solacebase online new platform, Abdullateef Abubakar Jos said the capacity building sessions organized to empower journalists with requisite skills and techniques of tracking funds, transparency in the use of resources, investigating and ensuring the effectiveness of primary health care in the country to reduce child and maternal mortality, in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) no 3, which emphasizes good health and well being.
He said with the capacity-building, journalists were equipped with a modern investigative methodology to collaborate with Civil Society Organizations and other stakeholders to check government spending, human resources distribution, and availability of primary health care in rural communities.