By Gabriel Ameh, The Sight News
ABUJA: Transparency and accountability have been said to be the essential ingredients needed to rebuild the people’s trust in institutions of Government, hence the need for empirical data on the level of journalist’ knowledge and use of the Freedom Of Information Act (FOI) on one hand and the level of compliance with the provisions of the Act by public institutions on the other hand.
This informed the decision of some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to enlighten members of the press on the importance and use of the FOIA as a powerful tool in investigative journalism.
Investigative Journalism is the future of Journalism and for Journalists to remain relevant and impactful in the society, they must embrace investigative journalism with the full knowledge of the Freedom Of Information (FOI) act, 2011.
This, was the statement by Mr. Edetaen Ojo, the Executive Director, Media Right Agenda (MRA) at a 2-days media training workshop organized by International Press Centre (IPC) in partnership with EU-support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) and other invited journalists, in Abuja on the 22nd and 23rd September 2020 on using the Freedom Of Information (FOI) Act for investigative report on campaign Finance and covid-19 accountability issues.
In his opening remarks, Ojo noted that a good journalist must understand and indeed have a good knowledge of the FOI Act in order to request for information in public offices, so as to get the facts of information to enable him/her report events professionally.
According to him the training was an opportunity for the media to learn the nitty-gritty of investigative journalism using the FOI acts as one powerful tool to getting the required information and to aid journalist investigative reporting, including investigating and authenticating his/her findings on campaign finances and electoral processes.
He further emphasized that a journalist with inadequate knowledge about the FOI Act, will not be able to get the required information and also make factual stories.
He recalled that Section 22 of the constitution provides journalists with the task of upholding the fundamental objectives and holding the government responsible for financial spendings.
For his part, Mr Lanre Arogundade, the Executive Director, International Press Centre (IPC), stated that IPC is in pursuant to the aims and objectives of Component 4b: Being Support to Media of EU-SDGN project being implemented by her organisation to empower the Nigerian media and journalists to be professional, ethical, issue-focused, gender and conflict sensitive in the reporting of the democratic governance and electoral processes.
He further stated that the workshop/project seeks to equip journalists with appropriate skills to engage in the reporting of democratic accountability in order to check impunity in the electoral process and ensure that elected politicians are made to account for their campaign promises.
According to him, the workshop will also be looking at the need for journalists to embrace investigative methods in the reporting of Covid-19 issues, largely because of the perception and perhaps the reality, that the funding aspect of the fight against the pandemic is not meeting the requirements of transparency and accountability with so many questions hanging out there: How much has been deployed to the fight by the federal government and what is the breakdown? How much have the state governments deployed to the fight and what are the details? What are the sources of the funding and who are the donors? What is the cost of the isolation centres built around the country? Who are the contractors? Were they selected in accordance with procurement laws?
Speaking also at the workshop, the Director, Centre for Social Justice, CSJ, Abuja, Mr. Eze Onyekpere who taught participants on how to understand and report campaign finance and political expenditure frameworks and issues, noted that the journalist should leverage on the FOI Act to demand for proper accountability of funds especially the COVID-19 donor and electoral campaign funds.
Freelance Investigative Journalist, Tobore Ovuorie taught Journalists how to use investigative reporting techniques, such as impersonation/participant observation, ambush/guerrilla tactics, desktop/interpretative and evaluation/critical analysis to monitor compliance with campaign finance and political expenditure regulations.
A participant at the workshop Mr. Immanuel Adeyomoye from National wire in an interview with The Sight News correspondence, disclosed that his knowledge on campaign financing has been broadened which would help him dive into how government fund campaigns and the limit of funds at which any politician or political party should spend on campaigns with proper accountability using the FOI Act, which would drastically reduce corruption.
The training workshop was specifically to acquaint journalists with the FOI Act as a powerful tool to aid their investigation and findings and with the technical knowledge needed for them to report their activities more effectively.
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