Group, U.S. Embassy groom female investigative journalists
In its quest to promote transparency and accountability as a major pillar of democratic governance, Media Awareness and Information, with the support of the United States Consulate General, Lagos, completed training on investigative Journalism for 60 female students of journalism drawn from seven journalism-training institutions in Oyo and Osun States. The institutions were the University of Ibadan, Bowen University, Iwo; Osun state University, Osogbo; Oduduwa University, Ile-Ife; Redeemer’s University, Ede; The Polytechnic, Ibadan and Lead City University, Ibadan.
The training, which sought to remove gender-based newsroom stereotypes that favour men in the allocation of investigative beats that are professionally fulfilling, was held at the Lead City Conference Centre Ibadan, and was the second to be organised by MAIN with a grant provided by the U.S. Consulate General, Lagos. The first training involved over 40 female participants from 10 journalism-training institutions in Lagos and Ogun States.
Declaring the training open in Ibadan, the Vice Chancellor of Lead City University, Prof. Olufemi Onabajo, commended the participants on being nominated by their various universities and urged them to seize the opportunity provided by the training to learn at the feet of experts in the field. Mass Communication, he told the participants, is a very interesting course on which they could build a thriving career in future.
In his view of the project, Dr. Olunifesi Suraj, a Consultant to MAIN, stated that the project was conceived within the conceptual framework of Gender, Media Freedom and Transparency in Government; and aimed at grooming new crops of investigative journalists who are women and equipping them with skills to hold public officials accountable while enhancing the peoples’ right to know. The intervention of MAIN and the U.S. Consulate General would also gradually address newsroom stereotypes that assume that female journalists should cover ‘soft’ beats only, just as it would also inspire female journalists-in-training to be eager to take up investigative assignments when they begin their professional journalistic practice.
“No doubt, a society where investigative journalism thrives is a free, save and democratic society. Investigative journalism is a service to the public. It promotes good governance and makes public institutions more efficient. Sensitising student-journalists and arousing their interest in investigative journalism would prepare them for the field after classroom training”, Dr. Suraj added.
In a short interview after the training, Miss Sophia Odioko of Oduduwa University, Ile-Ife acknowledged that the training was an eye opener and a career-enhancing exercise. To Miss Irene Iluno, of Lead City University, the training had rekindled her interest in investigative journalism. “I feel better equipped to take the plunge into the waters of investigative journalism after graduation,” she said with air of finality. “My expectation at the beginning of the training was to gain more knowledge on the usefulness of Investigative Journalism to the nation. I am happy my expectation was met,” said, Miss Akinola Ifeoluwa of the University of Ibadan. According to Miss Enime Oguntunji of BOWEN University, Iwo, her expectation of the training was to be more convinced about women being successful as investigative journalists. “…and I was absolutely convinced at the end of the training.” She concluded.
It was two days of revelations, inspiration and knowledge sharing for the 60 participants. Resource persons included Dr Nifesi Suraj (LASU), Dr. Yinka Egbokhare (UI), Mr. Ademolu Okuneye (Asst. Director, News & Current Affairs, NTA Ibadan), Mrs. Wunmi Adebayo-Bello (Asst Director, Programmes, FRCN Ibadan), Mr Oluseyi Soremekun (UN Information Centre-UNIC), Ms Tamuno Speedy (Media expert), Mr. Pelu Awofeso (Social Media Expert). This was the second training under this project being funded by the United States Consulate General, Lagos. The first was held in Abeokuta for journalism training institutions in Lagos and Ogun States.
Speaking on ‘Investigative Journalism – Access to Public Information’, and quoting the Freedom of Information Act 2011, Dr. Egbokhare defined public bodies as ‘all authorities – executive, legislative and judicial agencies, ministries, and extra-ministerial departments of the government; all corporations established by law and companies in which government has a controlling interest, and private companies utilizing public funds, providing public services or performing public functions.’ She added that Public bodies have a democratic duty to respond to information requests because the information they hold belongs to the public.
In his presentation on ‘The legal safeguards of the protection of right to life and safety of journalists’, the Assistant Director, News and Current Affairs, Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Ibadan, Mr. Ademolu Okuneye, noted that the major obstacle facing the protection of the right to life of journalists is not the insufficiency of the scope of existing rights but rather from implementation or enforcement gaps. All journalists in principle, according to him, benefit from the right to life, and the prohibition against forced disappearance and torture. The right to life and freedom of expression include positive duties such as the duty to investigate and prosecute perpetrators after a journalist is killed.
Assistant Director, Programmes at the Federal Radio Corporation (FRCN) Ibadan, Mrs. Wunmi Adebayo-Bello, emphasised the need for adequate preparation and extensive reading about the subject matter and information about the persons concerned before conducting an interview. She added that mental awareness and alertness was also important in the course of the interview.
Awofeso and Suraj engaged the students on ICT and Social media as tools for investigative journalism.