The International Centre for Investigative Report inconjuction with the Institute for War and Peace brought some Abuja-based journalists and members of the Civil Society Organisations together last Wednesday with the sole aim of advancing the cause of human rights and justice in Nigeria. AMEH EJEKWONYILO reports
It was a roundtable between news-hunters and members of the CSOs to rob minds on how best to tackle the challenges that often hamper the successful fight against issues of human rights violation and justice.
In setting the tone for the day’s discussion, Mr. Tajudeen Suleiman, Project Director of the ICIR, revealed that the aim of the interface was to bring journalists and CSOs members together so they could collaborate effectively to raise public awareness and launch robust advocacy campaigns and expose human rights violations that are crimes under international law, which often remain uninvestigated and unprosecuted.
“This project is about fighting for the rights of others, especially those who can fight for their rights,” Mr. Suleiman said.
In a paper presentation, a legal practitioner, Mr. Tochukwu Ohazuruike who is the Director of Legal and Documentation at the Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group, noted that the role of the media and the civil society in fostering human rights and justice advocacy cannot be relegated to the background if democracy most thrive.
In his presentation, Ohazuruike submitted with that coming into being of the United Nations (UN) and the subsequent adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948, the concept of human rights has turned out to be one of the most contemporary issues across the globe.
“The UN Charter, which was adopted in 1945, was the first international document to recognize the protection and promotion of human rights as an obligation to be carried out by individual, as well as collective states (Langley, 1999). The main reason behind the adoption of the charter was, according to Smith (2007) to forestall the reoccurrence of the horrible events caused by two devastating world wars which were caused by massive violations of human rights and unbridled breach of territorial integrity. Hence the reason to resist and remedy human rights violations by media and civil society cannot be overemphasized.”
He averred that it is government’s responsibility to put in place the framework for human rights as well as their defence, adding that it is the duty of the media and civil society to monitor and ensure as in all other spheres of life that society is living within the established frameworks.
The lawyer further explained that the social responsibility of the media is nurtured when journalists participate in what he described as ‘committed journalism’ wherein premium is placed on values such as democracy, ethics, free choice, transparency, morality, and serving the common good, thereby informing the public about socio-political, economic, and cultural affairs of the people.
While charging media practitioners to adhere to the ethics of accurate and unbiased news reportage to meet the diverse needs of the heterogeneous Nigerian public, without confining their role to being the mouthpiece of those with special interests or political agenda, Ohazuruike opined that “the role for the media and civil society in human rights and justice advocacy and reporting is to implicitly agree that it is their role in society to put issues of human rights on the front burner. It is both a social and moral responsibility of media to ensure free society. Human rights violation is one of the two major causes of the two World Wars.
“There can be successful partnerships between civil society and media for the exposition, advocacy and reporting of Human rights violations. Access to justice projects can be carried out by civil society and reports aired free or subsidized by the media. That partnership can work. The partnership can accentuate this joint noble role both institutions play in advocacy and reporting of justice and human rights matters.”
In a communique issued at the end of the one-day roundtable, participants agreed that it is imperative that there should be a partnership between media and civil society organizations.
“CSOs involved in human rights advocacy should build the capacity of journalists reporting the human rights bit while media houses build the capacity of CSO’s on good reporting mechanism for their work..
“Exchange of exclusive information related to human rights violation.
Networking among CSO’s and media organizations in ways to help on how to protect and secure themselves.
Media and CSO’s should be proactive and not wait for international organizations to be the ones making all the expositions of massive human rights violations in Nigeria,” the communiqué said.
The roundtable is the first in a series of a project tagged, “Media and CSO Partnership on Human Rights and Justice.