Barbara Trionfi

Executive Director of the International Press Institute, Barbara Trionfi, held an interactive session with stakeholders in Lagos during her recent visit to Nigeria as part of preparations for the IPI congress slated for June in Abuja. Raheem Akingbolu, who was at the session, reports on the significance of the congress

As the momentum gathers for the hosting of the 2018 edition of the IPI congress by Nigeria, stakeholders in the country’s media industry tried to prove to the world last week that they were ready for the international event. In a major build up to the event, Executive Director of IPI, Barbara Trionfi, was given a rousing welcome by leaders of various media organisations during her last visit to the country. The media leaders also used the opportunity to galvanise support for the congress.

While in Nigeria, Trionfi visited the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; veteran journalist and former governor of Lagos State, Lateef Jakande, media houses, and top business executives.

IPI, with its headquarters in Vienna, is a global network of journalists and media owners, who are saddled with the responsibility of promoting media freedom and defending the free flow of news across the world. This year’s edition of the congress is expected to attract top journalists and media owners from across the world.

 Import

The takeaway message from Trionfi’s visit, it seems, is that the leaders of the various media organisations in the country believe strongly that the event would be another opportunity to showcase Nigeria and its potentials. Chairman of the planning committee of the congress and THISDAY Newspapers publisher, Prince Nduka Obaigbena, was the first person to observe this.

During Trionfi’s visit to the National Assembly, Obaigbena said hosting the congress would provide the chance to showcase the best of Nigeria. 

“It is in our interest to showcase the best of Nigeria, to showcase our democracy, which is thriving and continuing, to showcase the fact that in Nigeria, we don’t quite have the trouble of the media like in the United States,” he said.

Speaking with THISDAY in Lagos, the spokesman of the conference and Managing Director of The Sun Newspaper, Mr. Eric Osagie, described the congress as a platform that would connect Nigeria and its business environment with the rest of the world.  

Osagie stated, “If you are part of this, it means you are a part of a global body. For the Nigeria brand, IPI Congress will be another great opportunity to prove to the world that things are not as bad as they appear to other global media. The event will also be a good positioning platform for businesses and brands in Nigeria.”

President Nigeria Union of Journalists, Waheed Odusile, also highlighted the importance of the congress, when he said Nigeria will be a global focus during the event. “For three days, Nigeria will be a global focus,” Odusile said. “When Nigeria was chosen as the host, we knew what the benefits would be and we decided to make it a multi-stakeholders event. That explains why we are carrying everybody along as the event unfolds and we are not in doubt that government and businesses will leverage on it.” 

On how the event would be used to showcase the tourism potential of the country, Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Lagos Chapter, who also doubles as the secretary in charge of transport and logistics for the congress, Dr. Qazim Akinreti, disclosed that part of the brief of his committee was to map out how the congress can showcase Nigeria’s tourism potential.

Akinreti said, “We want to use the opportunity to showcase the tourism potentials of Nigeria to the rest of the world, by taking visiting journalists to tourist sites across the country. Who else can do this if not journalists? With the congress, our visitors will see beautiful areas that could be market to the rest of the world. Besides, we want to let international journalists know that what they read and hear about Nigeria is not 100 per cent correct.”

Motive

During a visit to Chairman of Heirs Holdings, Tony Elumelu, in Lagos, together with some NUJ executives, Trionfi said she was in Nigeria to engage stakeholders and individuals who support the journalists’ cause towards building a better-informed society. She also stated that the congress would help journalists in this part of the world to understand better happenings in the international media arena.

Trionfi stated that IPI’s Abuja World Congress would give opportunity to journalists across the world to share their ideas, adding that it is the desire of members of the global media body to use their journalistic tools to bring forward ideas, which Elumelu and his foundation can support.

Responding, Elumelu, who listed different areas of operation of his group, stated that the group was very passionate about its foundation, which he said would be willing to partner IPI to deepen its humanitarian services. He expressed optimism that the IPI congress would make the world to focus more on Nigeria.

While commending the media for using dialogue and advocacy to try to educate government to realise that creating the right environment for the youth is essential for national development, the businessman admitted that the institute would be an ideal platform for any forward-looking organisation and individuals to collectively make government more accountable as well as create the right environment for start-up businesses to succeed.

Elumelu said, “We also have to make government understand that the success of these start-up businesses and the overall progress of the society depend on them. I’m happy that you’ve chosen Nigeria as a country to host this event. And when you all come, the world will know something is happening in Nigeria and our people will get more encouraged and organised so that we’ll become better in creating the right policies.”

Speaking to THISDAY after the meeting, Trionfi admitted that Nigeria paraded outstanding journalists and had a vibrant media industry that is in the best position to nurture the country’s democracy.

On what informed the decision to settle for Nigeria as host of the 2018 IPI congress, the IPI boss said Nigeria was not only Africa’s largest country in terms of population, but also a vibrant country with a lot of international attention. She noted that the world congress represented a distinct opportunity for IPI’s global network of editors, leading journalists, and media executives to build closer ties with their colleagues in Nigeria and West Africa, share experiences and advance a common strategy for safe, independent, public-interest journalism.

Earlier, Trionfi had visited the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who stated that the strengthening of Nigeria’s democracy was dependent on the parliament and the press. Saraki called for closer collaboration between both institutions. The senate president said as partners in the progress of Nigeria, the legislature and the press must be strengthened.

According to him, “We really should be partners in progress and work together. That is not happening. There is need for us to continue to do so based on the understanding that we are on the same side. Institutions like ours must be strengthened, and when we strengthen our institutions, we don’t strengthen individuals because some of us will come and go, but we must strengthen our institutions and democracy

“We should continue to see how the press and parliament can work together as institutions as this will go a long way in ensuring that our peoples are better served.”

The senate president also spoke on the need for quality reporting from the media to help democracy thrive. He added that freedom of the press and freedom of expression were relatively good in Nigeria.

Saraki stressed, “Hosting the IPI congress in June 2018 would provide the delegates from the global media community the opportunity to have a better understanding of Nigeria, enhance interaction on issues regarding the country and the continent.

“Some us believe that the growth and stability of the continent and the world generally today depend on what happens in Africa. When the world starts getting the accurate reports of what happens in Nigeria, the world will be a better place; it is long overdue but it is better late than never.”

Trionfi extended an invitation to Saraki to speak at the congress, which holds from June 21 to 23. According to her, Saraki’s address would help the editors and journalists at the meeting to understand the progress made in Nigeria.

She said, “This is also what we, in our communication about this congress, have been cheering. We feel this is the right moment for us in IPI to be in Nigeria because so much have been happening, which has been going in the right direction, and Nigeria is certainly Africa’s most populous country, one of the world’s leading economies. It is time that the world not only covers what is going on in Nigeria, but covers it accurately, having been in contact with some of the most trusted sources from the country.”  

Trionfi disclosed that the decision to hold the 2018 edition of the annual congress in Nigeria was enthusiastically received by the IPI General Assembly.

According to her, “Whenever we organise a congress, we want to have the full support not only of the media industry of the country, but also the support of the government and state institutions, because we truly believe that this is an important sign for a country to show its support for press freedom, quality media, for the efforts that certainly many within the news industry are doing to bring about accurate information to the people.

“Of course, there would be healthy tensions between the news media and the authorities, but we also do believe that in a democracy, such as Nigeria, the space that the state can offer to quality journalism is vital, not only in the sense of ‘hands off’ but also in the sense of proactively giving the journalistic community the safety it needs to work professionally, and the information they (journalists) need about the decisions of the state, of the senate, and the government so that there can be coverage in the most accurate way.”