Save media houses from collapse, NGE urges FG …As COVID-19 worsens situation
By Muhammad Hamisu Abdullahi
The Federal Government has been alerted on the strong need for it to quickly intervene towards saving the media by injecting funds that will help in keeping the communication industry jobs on one hand and on the other, ensuring continued existence and operations of the media houses, be they print, electronic or new media.
The plea came in a communiqué issued by the Standing Committee of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) after its zoom meeting held recently at Editors’ House, Ikeja, in Lagos State.
The communiqué, signed by both the President and Secretary General of the Guild, Mustapha Isah and Mary Atolagbe respectively, said the call became necessary as the Committee acknowledged “the dire state of the media, now made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
It said: “There is an urgent and very compelling need for Nigerian government intervention to save the media from total collapse. The Guild specifically recommends the injection of funds by the Federal Government, not only to help keep media jobs but, also to ensure continued existence and operations of the various media houses, be they Print, Electronic or New Media.”
The committee also noted that using public funds to finance private sector operations to save them from bankruptcy and total eclipse is not new and has been adopted in other jurisdictions.
It cited the instance of the United States Government, which it said, used public funds to save that nation’s automobile industry, banking and other ailing sectors from insolvency during the financial crisis of 2008, adding that currently it injected $2 trillion bailout for companies, amid the COVID-19 scourge.
The Guild stressed the need for the Federal Government’s financial intervention considering that media services are regarded as “essential services.”
It said based on the recognition of their services, therefore, “the media deserve to be treated like other essential services that played key roles on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19.”
The body of Editors averred that such intervention at this point is imperative, reiterating that it will go a long way in ensuring that the media continues to discharge its constitutional duty, stressing that the survival of the media is sine qua non for the survival of democracy.
According to the communiqué, the committee is in support of the position of the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) and the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), both of which have made strong appeals to the Federal Government for such intervention.
“The Guild notes that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the poor state of infrastructure in the nation’s health sector and urges governments at all levels, to apply the lessons learnt from the pandemic to fix the nation’s healthcare delivery system.
“In the same vein, the Guild frowns at the sudden spike in gender-based violence, especially rape and calls on law-enforcement agencies, the criminal justice system officials and other relevant bodies to consider gender-based violence as ‘special offences’ deserving of special attention, including expedited investigations and judicial process,” said the committee.
It then urged the Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Muhammad Adamu, to set up a Special Investigation and Prosecution Team, trained and primed, to deal with gender-based issues.
It also noted that the police play a major role in the cause of investigation and prosecution of gender-based violence, saying: “therefore, the police should be seen to be helpful and empathetic, not bullish and frustrating.”
While expressing dismay at stigmatisation of victims of rape and allied crimes, it urged parents and guardians not to succumb to intimidation and societal scorn but to boldly speak out against such violence.
The committee recalled recent incidents of attack on media personnel, to which the Guild condemned the penchant of some state governors to assume the role of judges in their own case, by arbitrarily harassing, assaulting and in some cases, detaining journalists.
The Guild described such predilection to impunity as unconstitutional, violation of individual rights and threat to the practice of journalism and freedom of speech.