By Nuel Suji
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has called for a comprehensive insurance coverage for journalists in the Nigeria.
He also said that it has become imperative for the salaries of media practitioners to be enhanced in order to boost their morale and increase their productivity.
Saraki made these remarks when he Chaired the opening session of the 5th Triennial National Delegates Conference of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Abuja.
The Senate President who was represented at the event by the Senator representing Kaduna Central, Senator Shehu Sani, said that recent events in the national, cross-border and global polity has undoubtedly put a lot of emphasis on the safety, sustainability, value, rights and moral standing of the average journalist.
He noted that journalists put themselves through difficult, often uncharted channels to ensure that democracy has its highest expression.
Saraki said: “It is thus incumbent on us, the custodians of this democracy, to bring to the fore viewpoints that will enhance the productivity and efforts of these professionals. That is why I associate myself with the call for journalists to be provided insurance cover by their employers, be it government or private. I also want to canvass enhanced salaries for the
“However, this demands that journalists through their associations should strictly enforce adherence to professionalism and code of ethics of their profession. There must also be penalty for those who violate the ethics or behave in a manner unbecoming of a professional,” he said.
He stated that the indubitable influence of the mass media on diverse issues in the society, and the multi-dimensional nature of that influence has inevitably led to the call for the role of the media with particular emphasis on democracy to be centred keeping the people informed, providing critical information and setting agenda for the public.
He said: “However, as seemingly basic as the above roles might seem, the unwavering impact of the attendant consequences cannot be glossed over and so, the effectiveness of the media in discharging these set duties will all but depend on the quality of media personnel, ownership, poverty level, ethnicity, civil society, professionalism, ethical and moral orientation of the media, religion, influences on the media such as powerful groups, advertisers and public relations people.”
He said that no nation can underestimate the importance of the media in the art of governance because the roles they play are primarily and centrally placed in national, regional, and local affairs.
The Senate President said it is necessary to urgently review the training curriculum in Journalism institutions to accommodate parliamentary journalism and other necessary skills to prepare potential reporters for challenges in the area of Legislative Reporting.
Likewise, according to him, positive developmental and citizen Journalism should be emphasized by the mass media with a view to fostering national unity, national interest and national cohesion.
According to him, “It is also worth knowing that beyond the business of governance, which is pivotal to our societal sovereignty, the press also commands indomitable powers in influencing the economic and social decisions of the society.
“It is therefore on all aforementioned assertions that the plea is hinged on for the media to heed this democratic call in the discharge of her duties.
“This in no way undermines the strong commendation I must give the media in the way and manner it handled this change transition by giving prominence to the Project Nigeria and the plight of her people.
“I strongly believe that journalism is first and foremost a public trust and one that should be held in the utmost esteem requiring those who hold this trust, even under extreme circumstance to refrain from its abuse.”
He commended the NUJ for holding the conference with the theme: “Fostering Safety of Journalists and Building Synergy with Agents of the State.”
Earlier in his remarks, the outgoing National President of the NUJ, Mallam Mohammed Garba, said he was leaving behind a more peaceful union having helped to restore normalcy to troubled state chapters of the union.
He said that the leadership of the NUJ, is committed to providing enabling environment for journalists so to carry out their professional duties without molestation.
Chief Press Secretary to the Senate President