A recent report on coverage patterns of conflict and humanitarian issues by ten media houses in Nigeria has revealed the need for a more strategic, nuanced focus on the role of the media in conflict.
The report titled “Thoughts on Managing Nigeria’s Intractable Humanitarian Crisis: a Study on the Coverage Pattern of Conflict and Humanitarian Issues by the Nigerian Media” was presented at a closed-door Stakeholders Dialogue event held on Tuesday 16th July.
For three months, Daily Trust, Premium Times, Nigerian Tribune, Punch, Guardian, Radio Nigeria, Channels Television, ICIR, Cable and Sahara Reporters, were monitored by expert researchers and media monitors from Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism with support from the Dutch Embassy and Free Press Unlimited.
The purpose of the monitoring was to elicit the media’s narrative on conflict and humanitarian issues, with the outcome of identifying strengths and gaps in the media’s coverage of conflict and humanitarian crises and improving the media’s capacity to report these issues better.
The excessive prevalence of government sources and voices in reports, reliance on press releases and agency reports, lack of investigative stories on the conflict and humanitarian issues facing the country, insensitivity to gender as well as other vulnerable groups, were some of the issues in the report discussed by media practitioners, academia, policymakers and security agencies.
The Deputy Programme Director of PTCIJ, Oluwatosin Alagbe, in her welcome address, spoke about the need for the stakeholders meeting. She said: “a severe humanitarian crisis has plagued the country, and stories about those affected by the conflict remain untold”.
“Covering conflict in Nigeria is a difficult feat, and journalists are faced with intimidation, threats to their physical safety and denial of access to information. Despite the numerous media outlets in Nigeria, only a very few of them produce consistent, professional and ethical content, which is the foundation of good journalism”, she said
While presenting the report, the Executive Director of PTCIJ, Dapo Olorunyomi said conflict reporting in Nigeria has many deficits ranging from gender blind reporting, to story origins, to the quality and depth of stories, visual content as well as challenges with adherence to ethical principles.
He reiterated the fact that the media has an important role to play in conflict resolution; thus, adequate attention must be given to how the media can effectively perform this role.
The stakeholders meeting looked into the persuasive reality of conflict in Nigeria, their devastating and tragic consequences, makes this preoccupation and the style of reporting in Nigeria.
The DSS spokesperson, Peter Afunnaya, highlighted the need for professionalism and understanding the conflict environment. He suggested the need for conflict dynamics and capacity training to be able to cover conflict and humanitarian crisis.
The stakeholder also discussed the 2015 Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP), which measures the pace of change in women’s media representation and participation at a five-year interval. The Project revealed that worldwide, women represented only 24% of persons who were heard, seen or read about in traditional media.
The discussion progressed to the representation of women in reporting; conflict reporting is not necessarily practical, and there are no female reporters on the ground (in the field) except for press releases.
Women constitute more than half of the population of many African countries, yet they are almost invisible in media of all forms online or offline, entertainment or in the news.
Toyin Akinniyi said, “there should be a conscious effort to propagating the female gender”.
She stated that although crisis affects women and children, the voices of women and children were not included in reports.
Following the stakeholder dialogue, a three-day training of reporters covering conflict held. The training focused on the gaps pointed out by the media monitoring exercise and included modules on humanitarian laws, fact-checking, narrative storytelling and improved interview techniques.
The training adopted a case study approach where participants took on real-life examples of conflict. They explored ways to write reports that focused on originality, diversity, contextualization and solutions.
Newsrooms that participated in the training are Guardian, Punch, Sahara Reporters, Premium Times, Daily Trust, ICIR, Tribune, Cable and FRCN.
The trained participants were offered grants opportunities to pitch stories using the basic principles of conflict and humanitarian reporting.2