ICIR at 10: Executive Director Aiyetan urges Anti-Graft Agencies To Partner Media in Anti-corruption Campaign

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THE Executive Director of the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) Dayo Aiyetan has advised the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and other anti-graft agencies to partner the media in the campaign against corruption.

Aiyetan, who is also the founder of The ICIR – a non-profit investigative media platform, said anti-graft and security agencies must see the media as a committed partner in order to win the fight against corruption in the country.

He spoke at a media sustainability conference held to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of The ICIR in Abuja on Wednesday.

Aiyetan expressed concerns over unwarranted harassment by some security outfits, mostly arising from investigations by The ICIR which unraveled corruption in some government agencies.

According to him, such hostile attitude towards the media was not necessary if the security and the financial regulatory agencies are to win the anti-corruption fight.

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“It is disturbing when a report is done about a government agency, and the next thing is you get a call from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and even the State Security Service (SSS) harassing you. This is not good.

“We call on the government to work with the media if it is serious in the fight against corruption,” Aiyetan said.

Going down memory lane, Aiyetan noted that the journey in the past 10 years has been rough but also fulfilling.

“We started the journey with Kevwe Uchechukwu and myself. Just two of us. We started in the office of the African Centre for Media Literacy (AFRICMIL) led by Chido Onumah. At a point payment for the space was a challenge.

“We thank God for today The ICIR has grown from staff strength of two to over 40.”

Aiyetan said the success recorded by the organisation would not have been possible without the support of donor agencies.

He, however, noted that the organisation is making efforts to deepen its sustainability strategy beyond donor funding.

The Executive Director stressed that The ICIR was determined to build a culture of investigative reporting in Nigeria.

“We do that by building capacity in different newsrooms. We have been able to increase investigative reportage in Nigeria in the last 10 years,” he said.

He stressed that the mission of the investigative platform is to advance a culture of critical media reporting in Nigeria.

Speaking on the future of the media industry in Nigeria, Aiyetan said there must be a national conversation on the issue, noting that without sustainable funding, it will be difficult to grow media business in Nigeria.

In a communique issued at the end of the event, stakeholders were of the consensus that building a sustainable media business is associated with being purpose-driven.

Therefore, it was agreed that media organisations, like other business concerns, must clearly define their purposes, from which they must come up with definite strategies for growth, development and sustainability models.

“Naturally, media organisations should be change agents in the society. Therefore, media platforms must establish themselves as being relevant to the development of the society, else they will not attract patronage.

“Media organisations must deliberately ensure that their staff are competent and be able to deliver on the jobs in the best and competitive standard.

“Media organisations must emphasize excellence, openness, integrity, transparency, accountability, and must invest in exclusive and investigative contents, in order to survive in the hostile business environment.

“To become commercially viable, media owners must invest in news gathering, and effectively fund journalists to do good stories.

“Journalists must not shy away from holding the government accountable, as that is one of the ways media could become relevant as the Fourth Estate of the Realm.

“Editors and media owners should become crusaders for media freedom and this starts by reassuring journalists that the integrity of the media will never be allowed to be tampered with.

“The independence of the media must as such be held sacrosanct, most importantly by editors and media owners,” it was stated in the communique.

African media owners and editors were also called upon to remain vigilant and ensure that the voice of the media is not stifled.

“The media, in view of sustainability discourse, needs to explore new content generation opportunities and must be ready to diversify into areas where they have core competence, by coming up with products like music, movies, documentaries as well as other educational and entertainment concepts.

“The media needs to leverage the power of collaboration. At tables where conversations on global investigations e.g Wikileaks, Panama Papers and so on happens, African media must collaborate and ensure it is ably represented.

“African media must not be seen as purchasers of global content but must take its place as generators of global content.

“In thinking about media sustainability, African media must transit beyond news generation into knowledge generation, as part of its drives for diversification and sustainability.

“The media needs to address the challenge of trust deficit, as sub-standard news contents, misinformation, disinformation, and mal-information has threatened the confidence of the people in the media.

“The media should engage with media regulators on the need to re-evaluate the punitive approach to media regulations.

“It is believed that a closer working relationship with the regulators is important, while encouraging them to see the media as partners-in-progress.

“In order to improve the business environment and enable the media to thrive, the media must draw the attention of the government to the challenges of infrastructure deficit, like the lack of electricity, insecurity apparatus, and bad road network, etc, to ensure they are addressed,” it was stated.

Participants at the conference, drawn from diverse sectors in the country, congratulated the ICIR for its tenacity that has made it possible for it to engage in critical reporting for 10 years on.

They also commended the Executive Director of the organisation, Mr Dayo Ayetan, for hosting the conference on the contemporary challenge of media sustainability in Nigeria, and, by extension, in Africa.

Among dignitaries present at the event, compered by Eugenia Abu, a multi-media expert and broadcaster, was the chairman, Arena Holdings, South Africa, Tshepo Mahloele, who was represented by a former editor, Sunday Times, Bongani Siqoko as the Keynote Speaker.

Also present were Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University, Kashere, Gombe State, Professor Umar Patte; Chief Executive Officer/Director of Radio Now, Kadaria Ahmed; founder of Connected Development (CODE), Mr Hamza Lawal; and David Kaplan of the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN).

Others were Dapo Olorunyomi, Publisher of Premium Times; Managing Director, Guardian Newspaper, Martins Oloja (moderator of the panel session); Mr Babatunde Irukera – FCCPC; Malam Mannir Dan-Ali, former CEO/Editor in Chief, Media Trust Limited, publishers of Daily Trust.

Also present were Mallam Isa Gusau, Special Adviser Media and Strategy, representing the governor of Borno State, Professor Babagana Zulum; Mr Dayo Olaide, Deputy Director of MacArthur Foundation (Africa); and a former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu.

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