Speaker of House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, on Saturday urged the proprietors of media houses to pay staff salaries as an ethical demonstration of commitment to their roles as watchdogs of the society against wrongdoing.
This was part of his address at the opening ceremony of the capacity building and development retreat by House of Representatives Press Corps in Kaduna.
Delivering his keynote speech, Dogara said that the retreat centered on the need for enhancing the capacity and ensuring a conducive environment favourable for effective Legislative reportage for members of the House of Representatives Press Corps.
He said: “I appeal to the proprietors of media organisations to endeavour to pay salaries and other entitlements of their staff. It is the only ethical and proper thing to do. Yes, you are watchdogs of the society. That also places a huge burden on you to act in an exemplary manner.
“There is no doubt in my mind that this retreat is timely in view of the need for Media practitioners to chart a new course in effectively reporting the Legislature as it strives to ensure good government and transparency. The relevance of this training is apt, and cannot be over-emphasised, as engaging citizenry in popular participation remains a key index in the assessment of any democracy.
“The Media profession is a noble one and one whose integrity should be protected. As much as we all like to savour good news, things can go wrong. Mistakes, problems, errors of judgment and political controversies come along once in a while and with them can come media attention.
“Objectivity should be the sole of the business of the press, especially when reporting the Legislature. It is important that the happenings and events in the Legislature are properly reported to avoid public backlash that could cause discontent and misunderstanding of the intents of the Legislature at any given situation.
“The National Assembly Press Corps is responsible for reporting the National Assembly and it is important that the report from them is balanced, clear and well managed to avoid ambiguity or situations that could cause damage or disrepute to the institution. If the press does not report news from the National Assembly appropriately, then the National Assembly stands the risk of being misunderstood and criticized by their constituents and the larger society.
“The reality of the Nigerian situation is that the Legislature is statutorily empowered to serve as checks and balances to the other Arms of Government, yet, this is not fully understood by the citizenry. This therefore underscores the importance of enhancing the capacity of members of the House of Representatives Press Corps as they collaborate with the Legislature in ensuring that Legislative activities are effectively reported.
“The mass media should partner with us to deepen democracy, check abuses in government and enthrone rule of law and transparency in our polity. In doing this, we don’t expect you to sing our praises but give us fair, balanced reportage and constructive criticism of our activities.
“We urge the media to help in sensitizing Nigerians on the powers, functions and responsibilities of the legislature in democracy.”
The Speaker assured that the House of Representatives is ever committed to providing legislative support and framework that will enhance freedom of speech and expression as provided for in the 1999 constitution; stressing that “this informed the reason for the passage of the Freedom of Information Act in 2011.”