Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki has called for comprehensive insurance cover for journalists in the country. He also said that it has become imperative for the salaries of media professionals to be enhanced in order to boost their morale and increase their productivity.
Saraki made these remarks on Friday, July 24, 2015 during the opening session of the fifth Triennial National Delegates’ Conference of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Abuja.
Saraki, who was represented at the event by the senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, said that recent events in the national, cross-border and global polity have “undoubtedly put a lot of emphasis on the safety, sustainability, value, rights and moral standing of the average journalist.”
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 professionals.
“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 stated that the influence of the mass media on diverse issues in the society, and the multi-dimensional nature of that influence has led to the call for the role of the media, with particular emphasis on democracy, to be centred on keeping the people informed, providing critical information and setting agenda for the public.
“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.
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 legislative reporting.
According to Saraki, “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.
“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.”
The Senate President concluded by commending 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, outgoing national president of the NUJ, Mohammed Garba, said he was leaving behind a more peaceful union, having helped to restore normalcy to troubled state chapters of the NUJ.
He pledged the commitment of the NUJ to providing an enabling environment for journalists so to carry out their professional duties without molestation.