Recently, the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) through its Promoting Democratic Governance Project convened both journalists and civil society organizations across the northwest states, to brainstorm on issues of good governance and public accountability. SHAFA’ATU SULEIMAN reports.
Over the years, the media have been globally acknowledged as the watchdog of the society while members of the civil society organizations have taken up the role of monitoring and evaluating issues that are essential for democracy, good governance and accountability within the society.
Like most democratic countries, it is believed that both the media and civil society organizations have propelled Nigeria to make significant miles in entrenching the principles of Good Governance through their exceptional works and efforts.
However, despite these efforts,financial resource, good governance have continued to be elusive to Nigeria. Public Analysts reasoned that the non cordial relationship between the media and civil societies has drastically reduced the proper access to holding the government accountable
THE BLAME GAME
Ibrahim Garba Maryam, a participant at the dialogue meeting organized by the ICIR to foster ways of mutual understanding and collaboration between the media and members of the civil society organizations within the northwest states pointed lack of trust as one of the factors affecting the inter-relationship.
Graba, who represents Gender and Society Inclusive, a Kano based Non Governmental Organization said the media does not make clear investigations before reporting issues “they are only concerned with political issues rather than social issues.” He opined.
Abdullah El kurebe, a media personality believes that the relationship between media and CSOs is that of seeking mere publicity. “From my experience, the CSOs only look for the media to publicize its activities and not to partner for public accountability.
“Like our governments at all levels, the CSOs hardly let the media into their core activities. El-kurebe notes.
Prince Tunde Omolehin, a renowned journalist described the working relationship as partial when taken into cognizant of some of the collaborative efforts they have achieved to ensure public accountability.
“For instance, we have seen that some of the data and vital information used by the media to produce exceptional reports that have held public officials accountable were provided by the Civil Rights/Society organizations.
“But in other ways, the same CSOs have overtime been used by government or corrupt people in the public service to blackmail the media in the name of activism.
“So, literally, the relationship still needed to be formidable through proper understanding of each one’s responsibility in the society. We are working on the same goal, that is to hold the public officials accountable and that should be done with proper understanding and mutual respect.” Omolehin submitted.
NOthers have a better story to tell on the working relationship, Mr Yohanna Samuel of Rural Youth Initiative said over the years, both media and CSOs have remained “partners in progress.”
“Having practiced broadcast journalism in the past therefore we cannot underrated or under estimate the strength of the media due to its reach and coverage.
According to Yohana, “We have particularly worked with the media in disseminating vital information to rural communities in kebbi state especially on VVF, HIV among others.”
Also speaking, Umar from Helping Hand and Grassroots Support Foundation, Sokoto shared a gloomy working experience with the media on a project sponsored in the state.
“We use media as a tool to reach out to wider audiences on the need to air their views on the quality of service of PHCs across the state and the program was a success.” He acknowledged.
WHAT WENT WRONG?
Also speaking, Stephen Waya of Coalition of Associations for Leadership, Peace, Empowerment & Development (CALPED) described as ‘weak’ mutual trust between the media and civil society in Nigeria.
“The perception that civil society partners are usually well funded to carry out their activities including engaging in media advocacy holds strongly among media partners who could in most times be offended when there is no incentive or stipends provided to cover for activities required of them.
He further said most media organizations are profit- oriented and could be more open to funded activities than causes that will not contribute to their financial balance sheet.
According to him: “both civil society and media practitioners have a low level of understanding on the mutual benefits that can come about through effective collaboration.”
THE WAY OUT
On how to foster good relationships between media and civil society, Peter Hassan Tijani, who is the Executive Director, Network for Empowerment and Development Initiative (NEDIN) suggested that the duo must understand themselves as agents of change and working to ensure accountability and transparency in governance.
His words: “The CSOs and Media need to work closely as partners in every project so that they media can amplify the CSOs activities CSOs should ensure they factored media engagement into every activity with budget.
“The Media and CSOs should build trust, believe in one another and ensure citizens and public accountability programmes and activities are collectively achieved with or without immediate monetary benefit.”
For Waya, the best way that CSOs and the Media can work together is first understanding themselves as agents of change and working to ensure accountability and transparency in governance.
CSOs should ensure they factored media engagement into every activity with budget. The media and CSOs should build trust, believe in one another and ensure citizens and public accountability programmes and activities are collectively achieved with or without immediate monetary benefit.
ICIR, BRIDGING THE GAP
To bring an enabling solution, Mr Dayo Aiyetan, Executive Director, ICIR said the theme of the workshop was tailored to bridge the trust between CSOs and the media.
His words: “Social accountability covers a whole range of issues such as health education and so on. So, we are looking at civil societies that we can partner with. They have enormous resources, access, networks,data information intelligence that we can tap into in terms of using for our investigation.
“If the media ‘s goal is good governance on behalf of the people, If civil society’s goal is good governance on behalf of the people then we should be working together.” If we have left this place with that realization and the commitment to work together then I think we have achieved that goal.” Mr. Aiyetan submitted.