As the world celebrates World Press Freedom Day, PREMIUM TIMES today announced a bold initiative to make its journalism more transparent, and its editorial decision-making more accountable, by officially constituting an oversight board to serve as advocate for our readers with regards to any professional or ethical flops.
Publisher of the paper, Dapo Olorunyomi, says the oversight committee is an expanded ombudsman of seven distinguished Nigerians tasked to receive complaints arising from the reporting of PREMIUM TIMES reporters and writers, and make independent and binding decisions on breaches.
Mr. Olorunyomi says “this development is consistent with the three key things that define the centerpiece of our values, and our journalism; that our first obligation here is to the pursuit of truth and accuracy; that our principal loyalty is to our readers; and our insistence that the essence of our journalism is to the discipline of verification.”
The internationally respected committee comprises of Amma Ogan, the widely respected first substantive editor of The Guardian on Sunday and later co-publisher of the rested NEXT newspaper; Kole Shettima, a political scientist and development expert who currently works as regional director of the Macarthur Foundation at its Abuja office; and Chidi Odinkalu, respected civic advocate, law academic, and former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission.
Others are Muazu Mohammed, a mass communication professor at the University of Maiduguri; Zainab Said Kabir, a sociologist and development specialist currently on academic tenure at the the Bayero University, Kano; Edaetan Ojo, a strong global voice on freedom of expression; and Ayo Obe, a lawyer, human rights activist, newspaper columnist and television presenter. Ms. Obe was President of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Nigeria’s oldest indigenous human rights organisation, and chairs the Board of Trustees of the Gorée Institute in Senegal. She is Vice Chair of the Brussels-based think tank, International Crisis Group.
Mr. Olorunyomi says the case of a public oversight over journalism is consistent with the idea of making integrity and accountability the DNA of every editorial process and outcome.
“Without an independent professional oversight over a journalistic enterprise, the professional will be prone to egregious abuses and ethical failures that defeat the aspiration of a media that will support democratic development,” he said.
“Important and welcome as the mechanism of the ombudsman is, we cannot yield such a noble enterprise to the dictates of governments or the business, political or cultural elites whose vision often abridge the vision of an accountability media as governments.”
In execution, the ombudsman mechanism is designed to help hold up PREMIUM TIMES’ judgments, actions, inactions, ethical standards, and journalism, to strong scrutiny in the context of independent, competent, and professional norms.
To give it purpose, Mr. Olorunyomi says, “PREMIUM TIMES shall actively invite complaints and comments on all our platforms for the committee to help it do its work via a secretariat, and we will also encourage them to do regular columns on complaints and ethical failures.
“Eventually we will hope that colleagues and peers in the industry will take advantage of this service in collaborative submission of editorial judgment to the power of a civic community, and in that baby step, help birth a true Nigerian Media Ombudsman,” the publisher said.