Editors' conference calls on FG to alleviate Nigerians' economic concerns

The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) weekend, held its annual conference in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state capital, where it aligned with measures so far adopted by the Federal Government to revive the economy. However, the NGE emphasized that the path to total economic recovery must not be littered with the ‘corpses’ of those who cannot survive the suffocating heat of the present situation.

The professional body of editors in Nigeria, therefore, urged the federal government to reduce the deafening anxiety among Nigerians by enacting short-term measures that would address soaring prices of goods and services, depreciating currency, volatile exchange rates, illiquidity in the foreign exchange market, high interest rates, high trade costs, declining purchasing power, escalating production costs, rising energy cost, slump in industrial capacity utilization and erosion of profit margins.

The conference attended by publishers, media executives and senior editors of print, electronic and online media houses across the country, urged government at all levels to practically initiate actions that would cushion the immediate effects of the sacrifices of Nigerians towards economic recovery.

In a communiqué signed by the NGE President, Mr. Eze Anaba, and the General Secretary, Dr. Iyobosa Uwugiaren, on Monday, November 20, 2023, the editors said in view of the crucial role by the media in deepening democracy and economic growth, the federal government has a huge and unique role to play in media sustainability in the country. 

On media sustainability and the existential threat by the Big Tech, the editors advised the federal government to follow the ongoing trends around the world by supporting adopted global bargaining code – through legislation, which will compel tech platforms, like Google, Facebook and others to negotiate payment to local news media houses for using their content.

According to the conference, ‘’The bargaining code allows publishers to collectively bargain without violating antitrust laws; requires tech platforms to negotiate with publishers for the use of news snippets; also requires them to pay licensing fees to publishers; and taxes digital advertising and uses the revenue to subsidise news outlets. 

“The EU, US, Canada, India, Brazil, Australia and others have since adopted their own media bargaining code through various Acts to compel big tech to pay for news they don’t produce but use and sell; it is gaining momentum and has been gaining global support since Australia took the bull by the horns.”

The conference, which also discussed the state of broadcast sector in Nigeria, urged the federal government to strengthen the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the regulatory body of broadcasting, in the general interest of the sector.

“The National Broadcasting Commission, as statutorily constituted in Nigeria is not an independent body like its counterparts in the United States and the United Kingdom. The National Assembly should amend the NBC Act to make it an autonomous body that will report solely to the National Assembly, and not the Minister of Information.

“Such independence of operation, devoid of arbitrary government intervention, will create a better sense of professionalism in the industry. Instead of always emerging from obscurity to bare its fangs at media organisations, the NBC and electronic media organisations should have regular roundtables on issues of mutual interests,” the communique added.

It also stated that both the NBC and electronic media organisations are currently operating a cat and dog relationship, where the NBC only sets traps for media houses before pouncing on them, instead of creating and sustaining a harmonious relationship through exchange of ideas, for the good of the industry.

On freedom of the press, the conference observed that for every right, there are corresponding responsibilities; and that journalists must carefully navigate the marauding laws against the industry with circumspection, by adhering to journalism’s professional code of ethics.

The communique states further, “In the course of holding government accountable – in line with Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), journalists should not shy away from telling the truth – as criticism is not synonymous with sedition, and public officials must imbibe certain democratic norms, which include openness towards criticisms.”

While urging government to do more in the security sector to ensure safety of lives and property, the conference challenged media houses to lead the campaign against every situation that is out to undermine the security of the country. It also advised media houses to sustain the campaign to reduce insecurity in the country

With the theme: “Stimulating Economic Growth, Technological Advancement: Role of the Media,” the conference was declared open by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who was represented by the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Alhaji Mohammed Idris Malagu.

Also present at the conference were the National Security Adviser (NSA), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu; governor of Akwa Ibom State, Pastor Umo Eno; the conference chairman and publisher of Vanguard Newspapers, Sam Amuka; former governor of Ogun State, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, and former Editor-in-Chief of Newswatch Magazine, Ray Ekpu.

Various papers were presented by experts, covering all aspects of the programme, including goodwill messages. 

Among the resource persons, all of who made in-depth presentations are Dr. Muda Yusuf, former Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Mallam Ribadu; the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of Economy, Mr. Wale Edun; Azubuike Ishiekwene, Executive Vice Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of the Leadership Newspapers; Dr. Chima Amadi and Richard Akinnola.
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