I most heartily welcome you to the 2019 NUJ Press Week of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Akwa Ibom State Council. To our Guests, I am delighted that you have all left your different very pressing schedules to join us today at this event that marks the end of another eventful Journalistic year for us.
It is going to be a very exciting week, which commenced with a thanksgiving service at Grace Family Church and visits to three orphanages in Uyo, Eket and Ikot Ekpene. Today’s official opening ceremony will feature lectures on very interesting topics to be handled by experts in our continuous education effort for Journalists in the State.
On Tuesday, December 10, 2019, we shall have a special session on Legal Notes and interactions with security operatives in the State. On Wednesday December 11, 2019, we shall take special care of our health with experts giving us talks on various areas of health needs followed by a medical outreach. Thursday will feature Journalists display their football artistry in two explosive all media football matches.
The week will be rounded off with a dinner/award night, where we shall be celebrating and rewarding professional excellence. We have singled out the best of media outputs for this Journalistic year to identify and showcase as the standard of practice. While we celebrate those who make us proud, we shall not hesitate, from now, to name and shame those who bring embarrassment to our profession. It is going to be a week loaded with stirring events and I invite you to be part of it all.
From our lineup of events, you will have noticed a preponderance of educative programmes, from journalism through law, security and medicine. This is deliberate. We are committed to nurturing a next generation of truly educated Journalists, who must know at least a little of everything. The desire to maintain a high level of professionalism among practicing Journalists in the State is one that we have not left anyone in doubt .
We have shown this commitment in the number of training programmes that have taken place in the NUJ Akwa Ibom State Council since we came into office on August 2, 2019. We have had a special retreat for the State Council leadership, comprising the State Working Committee, Chairmen and Secretaries of the various Chapels.
We followed that up with another training programme in conjunction with the Next Edition Center for Investigative Journalism and Policy Alert Nigeria. The Correspondents Chapel also organized another very interesting training programme as part of their 2019 Press Week.
We have done all these because of our abiding belief that the informed Journalist is an asset to society, while an unformed or ill-informed Journalist is a menace to the society. We have identified the dangers confronting our Union and our profession; we have come to terms with the fact that if we do nothing now about quackery, fake news, hate speeches, bias reporting and outright falsehood in reportage, the society we serve will no longer trust us.
When our reports become such that we are no longer taken into confidence, then we no longer serve the purpose of our profession. That is why we have taken time to train and retrain. With your support, we shall continue to pursue that vigorously.
We are exploring ways and means of attracting conference attendance for our members nationally and internationally. We call on governments, corporate citizens and individuals to support us in this regard.
The theme of this year’s Press Week, “Strengthening Peace and Unity towards Sustainable Development in Akwa Ibom State: The Role of Journalists”, is one carefully chosen to show the new Journalism route map we are charting for Journalists in the State. We are redirecting journalism practice from the current over concentration on rancorous political slugfest to journalism of development.
We are determined to have a responsive journalism that would call attention to the ills of society and proffer workable solutions. We crave for a journalism that would be the watch dog of the society; journalism founded on the need to build rather than destroy; journalism that would hold leaders accountable, yet careful enough not to break society.
Peace and unity are cardinal to any development. Akwa Ibom State is one of the most homogenous States in the country. The people of the State share a common destiny; a common culture, the language they speak is commonly intelligible and the people share a rich tradition of oneness that had in the past worked wonders for them.
It is in unity that the forebears of the State came together and communally sent their children to acquire education abroad. That act made remarkable developmental impact. When the shove came to push on the floor of the Eastern Regional Assembly and the prestige and identity of the people were threatened, our forebears came out in extraordinary unity to defend their identity.
It is that same spirit of unity that propelled our people to stridently put up the fight that culminated into the creation of this State. it is therefore obvious and historical that peace and unity have always brought immense progress and development to our people.
Akwa Ibom people have always been one people, but the narrative is fast changing because of the work of weak political actors, who when confronted by regular existential and political competitions, often try to create new empires for themselves and in effect resort to fanning the embers of division.
They create imaginary boundaries, using ethnicity and primordial sentiments to cause disaffection among our people. Today the State is largely polarized along ethnic and political lines. The media has become the dangerous play ground for these politicians, who use the media space to propagate their noxious divisive propaganda.
Today, we throw caution to the winds in our steady hate for one another; we pillory our leaders and demonize our elders; we ridicule our institutions and caste our state’s image in the darkest colours, all the time using the media.
Why is the journalist important in changing this ugly narrative? In my remark at the Correspondents’ Chapel Press Week, I mentioned some of the impacts of the media on the society. I did say that “The media has the power to manipulate, persuade, influence, and pressurize society in more ways than can be identified. It has the capacity to control society in positive and negative ways, exert enormous mental, physical and emotional hold on the people. Media has the huge ability to shape public opinion on all matters; they can form or modify opinions in different dimensions, depending on the motive and objective of its application”.
This overwhelming influence of the work we do is the reason we chose the theme selected. We are very important to how people think, reason, analyze and respond to issues. This calls for caution on the practicing journalist on his content choices.
The Journalist in the State must realise that there is more about our State than political Party affiliations. We must be circumspect about the things we put out to the people to read. The media is a powerful tool for development; it is equally a potent tool for the destruction of any society.
It is our desire that the Journalist in Akwa Ibom State must begin to resist politically motivated publications that tend to cast shadows on our State. We must begin to show more maturity in the treatment of contents that are predisposed to generate ethnic hate and suspicion.
Journalists must begin to address issues of development and lay less emphasis on politics that does not edify the state. Journalists in the State must begin to educate our people that political parties are mere tools politicians use to get power; it does not represent a hate line. Our people are one, no matter the political party anyone is affiliated to. It is our duty to let the people, including the politicians, that often sponsor negative reports against their opponents, know this through the treatment of our news reports.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we are determined to build our State and report her in attractive colours, without abdicating our watchdog role. We shall report to market and not de-market Akwa Ibom State. As professionals, we are guided by our code of professional conduct, our code of ethics and the moral character expected of trained journalists.
In our outputs, we must distinguish ourselves from the quacks and pretenders to this noble profession by rising above their dirty practice; by ensuring that our reports and articles stand the test of ethical scrutiny. That is the only way we can raise our shoulder high and take our superior professional high ground over those who are polluting our noble profession.
I want to use this opportunity to thank the State Governor, His Excellency, Mr Udom Emmanuel for all his cooperation, love and support to the NUJ in Akwa Ibom State. We identify with His Excellency’s Completion Agenda, through accurate, timely, complete and balanced reportage.
To the NUJ Zone F Grand Patron, Mr. Ephraim Inyangeyen, no words are enough to convey our gratitude for all you have done to lift up the practice of Journalism in the State and the Zone. God bless you sir. We convey our special thank you to the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Information, Sir Charles Udoh for his sustained support as well as the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr.Ekerete Udoh for being there for us in all seasons.
We also thank our proud partners and sponsors that have made thus year’s edition outstanding. Thank you for believing in us.
The Nigeria Union of Journalists is proud of the organizers of this year’s Press Week. We commend the committee led by one of our most dynamic young professionals, Comrade Nsibiet John. Their task was akin to fetching water with a basket, but I am happy they delivered a well packaged event. God bless you Comrade Nsibiet John and all the members of the organizing committee.
I want to congratulate all award recipients, who will be honoured at the dinner/award night. You deserve the honor for your contributions to the growth of Journalism in our State. We urge you to continue to identify with us at all times. To all the members of the NUJ, I can only say I am blessed to have you all. Thanks immensely. Thank you all for coming and May God bless us all.
Welcome to our biggest history.