I consider it a privilege to share this interactive media forum with esteemed Editors in their 19th All Nigeria Editors Conference holding in our Sister-State, Akwa Ibom. The theme of the conference “Stimulating Economic Growth, Technological Advancement: Role of the Media” is not only contemporary issue of discourse but also suited for the implementation of its outcomes at the end of the conference deliberations.
Aside the constitutional recognition of the Legislature, Executive and the Judiciary arms of government, the media as the “Fourth Estate of the Realm” could easily pass for the fourth arm of government. This watchdog role in stabilizing the polity is indispensable in any given democracy. The media has the capacity of advocate, it moulds the public opinion and calls out on the other three arms of government to show restraint in the event of abuse of power and dereliction of duty. Without the media providing the pivot on which the tripod of Legislature, Executive and Judiciary stand, then democracy would be wobbling.
The economic growth of any nation has a direct correlation with the wellbeing of its citizenry; hence a healthy economic outlook breeds healthy citizens. In Nigeria, many economic measures have been introduced in recent times to engender holistic growth and development. The pertinent question is, has the standard of living of the citizenry improved? It is therefore incumbent on the media to propagate home-grown economic theories with measureable outcomes that will reduce the suffering of the masses. The Editors-in-Chief of both print and electronic media houses should think global and act local towards the resuscitation of the nation’s ailing economy. Whenever the government in power, be it at Federal or sub-national comes up with an economic blueprint, the media should subject those postulations to logical critique to ascertain the effect on the populace. It is a sad commentary that, rather than playing this role, the media always extol the magnificence of these economic measures. This is probably due to political inclination rather than selfless service to the people as the moulders of their opinion. There is therefore an urgent need for a paradigm shift from praise-singing to critical analysis. The media should set the agenda!
While technology assist in simplifying processes, reduce human labour and increase yield, its advancement should be pursued only to “assist” and not replace human beings. The contemporary technological breakthrough that seems to undermine the human factor that created it, is the “Artificial Intelligence (AI)” often called Alien Intelligence. The robust application of this technology totally negates the human intelligence and in recent apprehension, Hollywood script writers and actors embarked on a month-long protest in California – USA against AI taking over this roles. Some media practitioners have gone ahead to use AI to create news from a scenario that does not exist. Some circumvent true live event by changing the geo-positioning of the location by the use of AI. This technology should therefore be used by the media practitioners with caution.
However, in agriculture sub-sector of the nation’s economy, there is dire need for the deployment of modern technology to reduce human labour, maximize yield and curtail post-harvest wastage. In urban planning, there is need to deploy relevant technology to curb chaotic traffic situations and waste management. The role of the media in these respects is to compare the technologies deployed in other climes and suggest ways of localizing same, taking cognizance of our climatic condition.
For us in Cross River State, there is a harmonious and symbiotic working relationship between the media and the government. In this regard, I wish to state unequivocally that there is no element of government intimidation of the press; neither are there media gags. What we have is free press! The State Government had recently renovated and equipped the offices of the editorial and production staff of the State Newspaper Corporation after its vandalization during the infamous Endsars protest. The affected staff have relocated to their offices accordingly. The media was also part of the fuel subsidy removal palliative sharing committee recently constituted by the State Government. During media parleys, media practitioners in the State are always at liberty to offer constructive criticism to the State Government on policies and programmes. This is a function of the press unfettered access to government information. The press is therefore an indispensable ally in delivering the dividends of democracy to the people.
Permit me at this juncture to call for the regulation of the social media space – which presently serves as a fertile ground for sensational journalism. There are many bloggers who use the social media space to spread unfounded rumours thereby misinforming the people. They also use it to stalk the highly placed in the society. This is an unethical media practice that should be checked. For purpose of emphasis, the State relevant information channels are always open for media personnel to cross check facts before putting same out for public consumption. This will help maintain the vividness of media practice. As you deliberate at this conference, may your deliberations be fruitful and the outcomes complementary to the drive towards the economic and technological growth of our fatherland – Nigeria.
May I equally use this forum to invite all media practitioners to Cross River State to witness our annual Carnival Calabar and Festival which activities are billed to commence on 1st December, 2023 and end on 1st January, 2024 (32 days of non-stop entertainment). The jewel of the activities is the carnival parade tagged the “Africa’s Biggest Street Party”. While in the State, you are free to immerse yourself in the temperate climate of the Obudu Ranch Resort, unwind by the seaside of the rebranded Marina Resort and be entertained by the latest movie blockbuster at the multi-billion naira ultra modern KADA Cinema. The welcoming disposition of the people of Cross River awaits you.
Sen. Prince Bassey Edet Otu