Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Mr. Mustapha Isah, yesterday enjoined the Nigerian media not to relinquish its duty of setting agenda for the public to politicians in the country.
Speaking at a town hall meeting in Lagos, with the theme: ‘Agenda Setting for Sustainable Development’, the NGE helmsman explained that the press has the responsibility to hold the government to account as provided for by the constitution.
Isah posited that the meeting was expected to assess the performance of the Nigerian media and suggest ways for improvement, arguing that all aspects of good governance are facilitated by a strong and independent media.
According to him, “What is currently dominating headlines in the media on the 2023 general election is zoning or power rotation. This is the agenda of the politicians. Must the media allow these politicians to set the agenda for us? I think it should be the opposite.
“As the politicians talk about zoning, we, I mean the media, should remind them that we are more interested in the issues of development, education, insecurity, youth unemployment and the poverty ravaging the country.”
However, Isah stated that it is only when journalists are free to monitor, investigate and criticise public policies and actions that good governance can take place.
He said freedom of the media allows for the creation of a public space in which a wide range of debates and expression of variety of viewpoints can take place, maintaining that a free and critical press is essential for the growth and development of any democracy.
“The media as a watchdog of the society which owes it as a duty to monitor governance and hold public office holders accountable to the people who elected them,” Isah said.
He added: “Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution says the press-radio, television, and other agencies of the media-should at all times be free to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people.
“This section gives the media the enormous responsibility to hold the government accountable to the people.”
He explained that good governance is simply an essential framework which serves as a means of achieving wider goals, including security of life and property, which is the primary goal of the government.
The NGE boss said: “Now, let’s talk about the role of the media in setting agenda for sustainable democratic culture and deepening of the democratic space.
“One of the major roles of the media is agenda setting. The more stories the media does on a particular subject, the more importance the audience will attach to it.”
Quoting a research by Maxwell McCombs and Donaki Shaw in 1972 on the United States 1968 presidential election, Isah stated that the work concluded that editors played an important role in shaping political reality, saying the mass media determine the important issues for campaign.
“Can the media in Nigeria shape the political reality in the country? If the answer is yes, how then can this be achieved?” He asked.
Quoting another author, Stanley Baran’s 2002 work, Isah noted: “The media may not tell us what to think, but the media certainly can tell us what to think about.”
He called for feedback on the agenda-setting role of the media, adding that the press was open to suggestions on how it can improve on its performance.
Isah further thanked the US Government through its embassy in Nigeria for making the event possible.
“The Nigerian Guild of Editors is indeed very grateful for your support. This town
hall meeting is going to be taken round the six geo-political zones. The next one will hold in Kano in January 2022,” he noted.