The Media Panels: Reportism in Conflict

    The  Media Panel: Reportism in Conflict organized by Ufuk Dialogue Foundation and Nigerian Turkish Nile University held on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at Nigerian Turkish Nile Univeristy; Abuja. There were 250 participants following the panel including Media representatives, academicians, NGO representatives and students.  The Turkish Ambassador to Abuja Mr. Rifat Koksal, The VC of NTNU Huseyin Sert and  The President of Ufuk DF gave a opening speech at the program. Speakers were  General Manager, Cihan News Agency (Zaman Media Group), Turkey, Abdulhamit Bilici; Dr. Enwere Head of Political Science Department, NTNU; The Moderator Prof. Umaru Pate, Dean Of Mass Communication Faculty, University of Maiduguri. The guest speaker of the panel was Mr. Abdulhamit Bilici, the General Manager of Cihan News Agency In his speech he said: “As you know, the models of the media can be listed as follows: the authoritarian model, the libertarian model, the Soviet-Communist model and, finally, the social responsibility model.  In my opinion, the solution to most problems lies in the social responsibility model. The emergence of the social responsibility model is essentially an account of the evolution of the media itself. Media organizations could not enjoy freedom in their activities when they were state-controlled. However, as state supervision was lifted, the media started to determine a set of rules based on market conditions. But due to wild market conditions, media organizations started to make economic concessions. Ultimately, media theoreticians developed the social responsibility model, which forbids both state influence and market influence. What does this model advocate? Let there be no external censorship. Let there be no state influence or manipulation of advertisers. Let editors act with social responsibility. This is the responsibility of publishers.   The Zaman Media Group has for 25 years been an important and successful example of responsible media. One could list its core principles as telling the truth, in every article giving the accused a chance to explain their side, active support for peace and dialogue initiatives, no denigration, no defamation, no sensationalism, supporting positive principles and not certain political parties, and encouraging good news while also not ignoring bad news.   Everyone has shining principles, everyone says they are for peace and love. The important point is not words but deeds. How then do we turn those principles into action despite pressure from the conventional media’s established habits. The Zaman Media Group’s editorial line can be defined as progressive conservative. It is a synthesis of Turkish, Islamic, traditional values and universal principles like democracy and the rule of law. We support polyphony by giving a platform to columnists from very different ideological, ethnic and religious backgrounds. Their common denominator is democracy.”   On Terorism, Bilici said:  “We have a clear position on terrorism and violence. Irrespective of the motive, we condemn any terrorist act. We do not hide our Islamic identity, but we do place a distance between Islam and terrorism. Prominent figures such as Fethullah Gülen condemned such terrorist acts in the name of Islam and we have publish this several times as a headline story despite death threats. And  The Zaman Media Group strongly supports initiatives for dialogue among different cultures, religions and civilizations. We invite representatives of such groups to our conferences and editorial meetings. By these values Zaman, become the highest-circulated daily in Turkey. In Turkey’s most violent region ( South-Eastern Turkey where there are terrorist activities), the circulation of Zaman is twice as high as that of all the other dailies combined.”   In Abuja Panel the second speaker was Dr. Enwere Who is the Head of Political Science Department-NTNU. He said, “Because of the struggle for power and the competitive nature of international politics, the media in this contemporary era of globalization is used by the Great powers as instruments of psychological coercion and propaganda to twist news and information necessary for promoting values of hegemonic unipolarism in world politics as well as to control the minds and actions of middle and small powers… The media to play objective roles in conflict resolution there is need for the restructuring of its patterns of reporting conflict situations in order to make the media more proactive in promoting peace and harmonious relationships in the political system. To achieve this new posture in media reporting of conflict situation, we suggest that the Gulen principles of dialogue, tolerance, coexistence and mutual understanding should be applied in the training of media reporters as well as in the strategic procedures of reporting conflict issues. This will promote the values of humanitarianism and culture of peaceful coexistence needed in every political system to nip conflict in its bud and increase the virtues of peace.       The  Media Panel in Lagos: Reportism in Conflict organized by Ufuk Dialogue Foundation and Nigerian Turkish Nile University held on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at Nigerian Turkish Nile Univeristy; Abuja. There were 250 participants following the panel including Media representatives, academicians, NGO representatives and students.   Conflict situations make the best headlines, but how can the media ensure that publication of crises does not worsen matters? Experts yesterday said by adopting a more responsible approach to reporting, the media can help resolve conflicts.     The first Media Panel: Reportism in Conflict and the Role of Media in Conflict Resolution. It was jointly organised by the Nigerian Turkish Nile University, Ufuk Dialogue Foundation; The Nation and the Lagos State University (LASU) School of Communication on Tuesday, January 21, 2013 at Lagos State Univeristy, Faculty of Mass Communication. There were 150 participants following the panel including Media representatives, academicians, NGO representatives and students.   Speakers, including General Manager, Cihan News Agency, Turkey, Abdulhamit Bilici; The Nation Online Editor, Mr Lekan Otufodunrin and a communication lecturer at LASU, Mr Tunde Akanni, said it is possible to strike such a balance.   Bilici, who said his country, Turkey, lost 40,000 people to attacks by a leftist terrorist group, said despite threats to media operations, the press must always condemn terror. He was responding to a question by The Nation Editor, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, who sought to know how Turkish newspapers were able to operate despite risks of attacks. He said the group demands ”fair” media reportage, even as it remains faceless, its leaders unknown. Bilici said beyond taking a clear position against terror through condemnation, Turkish media laid emphasis on reporting its causes while highlighting steps taken to achieve peace. He urged the media in Nigeria not to shut their eyes to the problem of terror, saying violence should not be encouraged. The media should continue to raise awareness about the problem, he said. “We don’t exaggerate or sensationalise, and yet we are successful,” Bilici said of the approach adopted by his newspaper group. We have a clear position on terrorism and violence. Irrespective of the motive, we condemn any terrorist act.    We do not hide our Islamic identity, but we do place a distance between Islam and terrorism. Prominent figures like Fethullah Gülen condemned such terrorist acts in the name of Islam and we have published this several times as a headline story despite death threats. The Zaman Media Group strongly supports initiatives for dialogue among different cultures, religions and civilizations. We invite representatives of such groups to our conferences and editorial meetings. We place special emphasis on increasing the standards of democracy in Turkey and we have a very strong position against anti-democratic forces, be they in the civilian or military bureaucracy, in politics or in the media. Democracy and freedom are not enough if they are not supported by education, economic welfare, equal opportunities and transparency. As a result, we also focus on the fight against corruption, encourage the strong economy policies of the government, and Turkey’s opening up to the world.”   Otufodunrin said depending on a number of factors, including ownership, interests of journalists, understanding of the issue in dispute and others, the media can decide to take sides in a conflict and make it impossible for it to be easily resolved. Besides, it can choose to inflame passion through sensational reports informed by commercial interests, be used as a propaganda tool through publication or broadcast of falsehood and undermine efforts to resolve conflicts. However, he said by operating in line with the ethics of the profession, which demands that journalists should present truthful, accurate, fair and balanced reports, the media can help resolve conflicts. The notion that bad news sells probably explains why media will sometimes prefer that a crisis lasts longer than it should. Our commercial interest should not override that of the public or the affected community or group as the case maybe. More than ever before as Nigeria and indeed the world generally gets engulfed in multifaceted crisis, which has grave implications for economic, political and social development, the media has to rise up to play the desirable role helping to resolve conflict from which it cannot be immune from in some instances. Where possible, the media should in accordance with its agenda-setting role, help prevent conflicts. We should foresee conflict situations and call all concerned to order. Our call for caution may be ignored but let it be on record that we spoke up when we should. Specifically, the media should stick to the truth in reporting all sides of a conflict instead of publishing falsehood and propaganda from interested parties. The standard maxim of media practice is when in doubt leave out. Peace initiatives should be highlighted and encouraged considering that conflict is an ill wind that does not blow anyone any good. The worst of conflicts have to be resolved one way or the other. The earlier it is resolved the better,” Otufodunrin said.   For Akanni, basic journalism training skills may not be enough for conflict reporting. Editors and reporters, he said, should strive to seek better understanding of conflicts. He said: “Here, we wish to recommend to journalists involved in handling and managing stories deriving from conflict to subscribe to the helpful UNESCO guide for being clearly all-encompassing. It, for instance, counsels that journalists should endeavour to confirm a basic understanding of news media roles and generally recognised essential standards of practice for professional journalists. While urging journalists to appreciate opportunities and constraints in reporting comprehensively on conflict, they should also be conscious of specific problems and possible solutions confronting conflict-sensitive journalists.   Plaques were presented to speakers and the organizers by Ufuk Dialogue Foundation.                        





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