The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos Council, recently organised a workshop for journalists and educators in Lagos.
The programme was held in collaboration with Journalism in Global Context (JiGC), Eric-Brost Institut, the African Media Initiative (AMI) and Africa Positive at De Rembrandt Hotels and Suites, Lagos.
The event was aimed at re-orientating Nigerian journalists and their counterparts across Africa to report the continent from the African perspective rather than from the narrative of the Western press. The theme was “Media and Migration Training for Journalists and Educators.”
The argument was that the media should use its power of communication, education, entertainment and information to shape their respective societies into what they want them to become. What the media reports and the manner in which they are presented to the public determine what dominates the public discourse, what people think about and how they react.
Mr. Eric Chinje, senior special advisor to AMI, who set the mood of the dialogue, noted: “The media, like in Nigeria and other countries on the continent, has dual roles of deciding what people think about and how they think about them and, therefore, must identify and prioritise issues that are important to the populace.”
He said the media could only effect a change in governance by bringing these issues to the front burner of national discussion.
According to him, political leadership in Nigeria and other countries listens to and follows media trends, but the media has failed to seize the opportunity to effect the needed change.
He said: “The media tells people what to think about by agenda-setting. The media sets public agenda in the sense that they may not exactly tell you what to think, but they may tell you what to think about.
Readers not only learn about an issue but also how much importance to attach to it from the amount of information in a news story and its position. The media also tells people how to think about an issue. This is related to agenda-setting and suggests that how something is presented to the audience influences the choices
people make about how to process that information.
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“The media can transform the continent, but to do that the media has to go beyond reporting what it does presently. Unfortunately, the critical issues of Africa’s development are missing in our media. The media in Africa has been shaped to report what the foreign press tells us.”
He added that the only way Africa would make progress was when the media not only identifies and understands the issues, but also gives them priority reporting.
Chinje noted that Africans’ migration story is pathetic, regretting that many Africans migrate towards Europe because they believe the conditions in their countries are not suitable.
He observed that the African migration story is not as bad as painted in the western press because, out of a total of 158 million migrants and refugees worldwide in 2017, about 68 per cent came from just five countries, Syria, 6.3 million; Afghanistan, 2.6 million; South Sudan, 2.4 million; Myanmar 1.2 million; and Somalia, 986,400.
On his part, Dr. Quasim Akinreti, chairman Lagos council of the NUJ, noted that Nollywood, Nigeria’s film industry, also has a role in telling the story of Africa.
He, however, regretted that, rather than promote the virtues of Africa, Nollywood often casts Africa in the negative light in many storylines.
He urged the stakeholders to change their narrative and promote the vast good qualities of the continent in their scripts.