Journalists must hold Government Accountable – Ejime

Ejime speaking at the workshop
Ejime speaking at the workshop

MEDIA professionals, who cover foreign affairs, have been tasked to hold government at all levels accountable to the people. Paul Ejime, communications specialist, said journalists must have the social responsibility to inform, educate and entertain. Besides, he said they must have to expand their horizon to include interpretation/analysis of topical issues and supporting democracy, good governance and respect for human rights.

Speaking at a Workshop on Diplomatic Reporting organised by the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ/Diplomats Extra Magazine, at the China Chamber of Commerce, Abuja, on the topic: ‘The role of Foreign Affair Correspondents in International Diplomacy,’ Ejime said journalists must be self-aware and prepare properly to prevent poor performance.

He said for foreign affairs correspondent or communicator to succeed, he/she must be sensitive, mature, adaptable, respect others and tactical in carrying out his/her duties. “The foreign affairs correspondent, because of his/her unique position as the public watchdog not just in one nation but in a multiplicity of countries, therefore, has the additional duty to communicate effectively in order to foster bilateral/multilateral cooperation/relations.

“He/she is an agenda-setter, a change-agent, who impacts policy formulation directly or indirectly. This is particularly true in Africa with a high level of illiteracy and where news headlines constitute the primary if not the only source of information for the majority of the population, including policy-makers. In many cases policies follow or are influenced by headlines,” he said.

Ejime with the participants
Ejime with the participants

Ejime acknowledged that foreign affairs correspondents in most cases function under the same environmental constraints faced by other journalists, whether in a developed or developing country. According to him, in January 2007, the African Media Development Initiative, AMDI, which was launched in 2005 to mobilise international support for the development of African media, released the findings of its study which identified a legion of weaknesses in the Africa media sector.

The countries surveyed were Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The study noted that while there had been a massive proliferation of media during the last five years in the 17 sub-Saharan African countries surveyed, the professional, technical, ethical and management standards of the sector remained low.

“In developing or growing journalism profession and the media in developing countries, especially in Africa, the preference could be to build capacity and empower journalists in these countries to report events in their own countries for foreign-based media organizations, given that they should understand the local environment better. But this assumption may not necessarily be true and should therefore not stop the sending of expatriates by foreign media organisations to report from developing countries. In any case quality control or editorial supervision is normally assured from the Headquarters of individual media organizations and any foreign correspondent that fails to measure up to standards is shown the way out,” he said.

Ejime said while the ultimate decision on who works as a foreign correspondent may lie with individual media organisations since he who pays the piper calls the tune, the foreign affairs correspondent occupies a critical position and should play a key role in international communication, and by extension international relations. He noted that the advance in modern technology has changed the dynamics of international relations thereby imposing additional challenges and responsibilities on foreign affairs reporting and the media at large.

To succeed in the complex and competitive media environment, the foreign affairs reporter, he said, must, therefore, acquire a host of appropriate skills and competencies to keep pace with the ever-changing world of communication and international relations.

“He/she must be deeply knowledgeable and current about international affairs and diplomacy. This requires some fundamental qualities, which when combined with an assertive drive, boldness, courage and determination, an eagle eye and strong nose for news, as well as a result-oriented disposition. Strong inter-personal communications, interview skills, and self-motivation should put the foreign affairs correspondent in a strong position to deliver and make the desired impact on the complex dynamics of international relations,” Ejime said.

– Nov 1, 2017 @ 13:59 GMT |

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