Nigerian journalists have been urged to dedicate more time to reporting issues affecting Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the country.
The call came during the presentation of Muffled Voices; a publication containing the report from two months media monitoring of six newspapers and two online platforms in Nigeria.
With support from the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC), Bread for the World, and Waldensian Church’s Otto Per Mille (OPM), Christian media group, Journalists For Christ (JFC) International Outreach carried out the project to monitor media reportage and portrayal of IDPs in Africa.
JFC on the project provided leadership for the same project in Kenya and Congo Democratic Republic, where the project ran simultaneously.
The presentation which took place at the International Press Centre, 5th August attracted journalists, members of the civil society, stakeholders in the IDP sector, academics and members of the larger society.
President of JFC, Mr. Lekan Otufodunrin at the presentation said the media can only become the voice of the IDPs if only journalists are determined to provide adequate reportage of issues surrounding the displaced persons.
“The media can become the voice of the IDPs by ensuring the several issues they are facing are well reported in order to make government and members of the public address their plights,” Otufodunrin said.
Otufodunrin, erstwhile Online Editor and Director, Special Publication at the Nation Newspaper however enjoined journalists to do more in reporting issues around IDPs across the country.
He also urged media organisations to provide necessary assistance including media training for journalists to report more IDP issues so that the government and policy makers can have first-hand information to the end of solving the pressing issues.
According to him, the conversation continues even after the presentation because the document would be used for advocacy in media houses in order to achieve results in line with the recommendations of the survey.
Reviewing the publication, Associate Professor of Mass Communication at the University of Lagos, Dr. Oloruntola Sunday noted that the media has not done enough to amplify the voices of the IDPs in Nigeria.
“The media should continue to highlight issues that concern those affected by hostilities and conflicts without distractions,” he advised.
The Associate Professor also noted that IDP issues are recorded all over the world and not particular to Nigeria alone. “The reality is that internally displacement is all over the world now, it is not something we can take with levity again. It is something we should make a deliberate plan for,” he said.
The reviewer also advocates that the guiding principles supporting IDPs must be domesticated. “We have to domesticate these guiding principles and take proactive measure,” he said.
He also advised the government to create a deliberate policy to handle IDP issues if there is none.
On the issues of rape and abuse in the IDP camps, the Associate Professor said the allegations should be investigated.
“I want the cases of rape and mismanagement in the IDP camps to be properly investigated. The civil society organisations and everybody should join hand with the government in investigating these crimes,” he demanded.
Concluding, he said the media must be ethical in their reports. “We have to be ethical in our reports, we have to report facts, not to fabricate stories. We need to give them a voice; talk for them and let them talk. Let them know they too can contribute to the country,” he advised.
The Associate Professor however recommended that the government should create a policy to tackle IDP issues, taking a cue from global practices.
Moderating a session, Executive Director of Centre for Children’s Health Education Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE), Betty Abah noted that some of the inmates in the IDP camps are professionals who were caught in the various crises that culminated in their losing all they previously worked for.
“Some of the IDPs are professionals in various fields, but when they became IDPs we lump them together. It is so demeaning.
“Even kings and traditional rulers have been rendered IDPs. It could have been anybody so we should put ourselves in their shoes,” she said.
Mrs. Ola Erinfolami is the Assistant Chief Admin-Officer of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) who at the presentation of Muffled Voices appealed for the necessary support to resettle IDPs in Nigeria.
According to Erinfolami, who coordinates the South West Zonal Office of NCFRMI, the camp at Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos is presently sheltering about 10,000 displaced persons including returnees from Libya.
“Currently, the camp at Ibeju Lekki is housing about 10,000 displaced persons including those returned from Libya,” she said, enjoining journalists to do more in reporting the issues.
A panelist at the event and erstwhile Sunday Editor at the Punch newspaper, Mrs. Bisi Deji-Folutile noted that it is difficult for media houses to stay on IDP issues for a prolonged time.
“It is true that as media organisations we have so many things we contend with every day. It is not easy for a media organisation to stay on an issue for a prolonged time,” she said.
Deji-Folutile also noted the unfortunate situation of IDPs in the country. “Unfortunately the issue of IDP is a problem nobody is thinking will get solved. In the media, when things happen like that, they get so much part of us that they become so ordinary. Great things become ordinary,” she said.
The former Punch editor also advised the media should focus more on mis-governance which implications include IDP issues.
“I think the media should focus on mis-governance and its implications. I know they are doing it but they can do more. If IDPs are products of mis-governance, how can the same government that is not governing properly tackle the product of its mis-governance?
“If we have good governance in place, we shouldn’t be products of self-made problem because it is a man-made problem, not a natural problem and we are not doing anything to tackle it. I think government should tackle mis-governance and its implications,” she said.
Deji-Folutile also noted that not many investigative stories came from the review of the publication. “From the review we could find that not many investigative stories were done. The ones that were published were basically news reports, probably out of press releases or when government officials visit the camps,” she observed.
She also noted that media houses due to several challenges may not be able to sponsor journalists to IDP camps.
“It is unfortunate that a lot of media houses may not be able to sponsor independent coverage of IDPs on a continuous basis. I even want to commend journalists that are working on IDPs because it is a product of their personal convictions that is why they are doing what they are doing and we like to commend their efforts.
“The media in Nigeria is also a product of the society. You will agree with me they have economic challenges. The Nigerian media houses are dying, you with think they are there but they are not finding it easy at all. Many media houses are not paying and the few one that are paying put more pressure on the journalists to deliver,” she said.
In his own comment, another panelist, News Editor, EKO FM, Mr. Muyiwa Kalejaiye said the newspapers and television houses cannot cover all that need to be reported about IDPs.
“It is impossible for us to have adequate coverage of IDP issues in this country. The experiences such people go through cannot be fully reported because when the media is not there and people don’t see what is happening they are not likely going to accept those things are going on,” he said.
Commending the efforts of JFC on the project, he however recommended that JFC should not only focus on IDPs displaced by violent crises but should include those displaced by ecological problems.
“While I commend the effort of JFC on the project, I also recommend to them that it is important they take note of this in further research on further work on media coverage on IDP issues.
“Journalists should not only focus on IDPs displaced by insurgency but should also report those IDPs displaced by other factors for instance erosion has displaced several people in the south east and those people should also be reported,” he advised.
In his own remark, Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Lagos Chapter, Dr. Qasim Akinreti enjoined journalists to continue to be the conscience of the nation and ensure the voices of IDPs are not muffled.
Also at the event was chairperson of the National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Lagos Chapter, Mrs. Adeola Ekine who enjoined journalists to do more reports on the plights of IDPs in order to see them return home.
Other journalists at the event included Executive Director, Journalists Against Aids, Nigeria, Olayide Akanni, Mr. Wale Fatade, John Okocha, a film maker and social worker at an IDP camp in Maiduguri, Borno State among others.
Stakeholders at the presentation took turns to call on media houses to do more in assisting journalists to provide robust coverage of IDP camps.