By Kelechi Esogwa
In recent times, media practice in Rivers State has faced a lot of challenges due to many factors ranging from insecurity of journalists, lack of funding, government’s unfriendly disposition, politicization of reports, police brutality, advent of social media, among others.
The fallouts of the recent anti SARS protests in Nigeria which saw the federal government, through the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), penalizing some media outfits for giving the protests wide coverage further exposed the difficult situation under which media practitioners operate in the country.
Worried about this situation and determined to help facilitate the provision of a safer and less stressful environment for media practice in Rivers State, a non governmental organization, Stakeholders Democratic Network (SDN), on Thursday, organized a workshop for journalists in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State Capital.
Tagged Civic Space Workshop, the forum provided opportunity for journalists to look at the various factors militating against free media practice in the State, the causes and the impact they are having on the media in particular and the civil society at large.
Some of the factors brainstormed on by the journalists at the workshop which was anchored by SDN’s resource person, Clement Ofokwu, included regulatory framework, access to funding, administration and bureaucracy, safety and wellbeing of people, access to information and public voice, freedom of assembly, association and dissent, dialogue and consultation, access to justice and legal services and legitimacy and accountability of civil society/media.
The resource person, Clement Ofokwu, divided the journalists into two groups for easy discussion and asked each of the groups to critically examine the factors and give their ratings based on what is obtainable in Rivers State.
At the end of the discussions, the two groups came together, looked at their various reports and came to a consensus that the media has faced more challenges in the state in the last three years than in the past, attributing it to a downward trend caused by the unfriendly disposition of the present government towards the media, the advent of social media, high level insecurity, lack of funding, police brutality, high cost of litigation, politicization of almost every activity in the state, among others.
The journalists also agreed that the entire process is having a negative effect on both the media and the civil society, as it denies them space to freely express themselves through their respective platforms.
They also made recommendations to SDN on some of the ways by which it could assist them and boost their work, suggesting that such aids as funding, sensitization campaigns through the electronic media, legal services, high tech gadgets and retraining programmes will go a long way in facilitating their work.
The workshop, which started at about 10:30 a.m., ended around 3:30 p.m.
Some of the journalists expressed happiness at the opportunity given to them to discuss the issues affecting their profession and thanked SDN for organizing the programme.