Ibanga Isine, and I first crossed each other's paths while I volunteered for a United Nations Association. The task of email travelling before I secured a meeting with the multi-award-winning journalist and human rights activist became insignificant detail during our first conversation. We talked about the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping that dominated the international media at the time and the state of politics in Nigeria, amongst other things. Through our talks, I quickly understood the responsibility to tell a true and right story and the irresponsibility of reckless words.
In a series of interviews that will be published over a few weeks, Ibanga Isine educates us on the responsibility to communicate what is right and true.
On Sunday, September 22, an interdenominational thanksgiving service was organised by the government of my home state, Akwa Ibom in Nigeria's Niger Delta region. The service was to commemorate the 32nd Anniversary of the creation of the state.
I watched the live streaming of the service on social media. But not long after the service ended, a young friend and colleague took to Facebook and posted an acerbic story against the state governor for failing to recognise one of the distinguished visitors who were at the service officiated by Nigeria's Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo.
The young reporter described the governor as "Shameless," said he (reporter) was bewildered by the governor's "hypocrisy," accused him of "renting a paid crowd," and "lost in the euphoria of a tribunal transacted victory," apparently referring the election petition tribunal's ruling that affirmed the governor's victory at the polls.
That was the height of irresponsibility on the part of anyone who identifies with journalism. What the young man did and with so much boldness was a clear case of irresponsible journalism.
My take is that journalism does not give its practitioners the license to insult and disparage people. It doesn't appoint us as judges in the court of public opinion.
Responsible journalism is, therefore, reporting factually and truthfully with fairness and candour, reprimanding wrongdoing frankly but with grace, realising the inherent fallibility of our humanity. Responsible journalism demands so much from reporters who must decide on when to; and the limits of using hidden cameras, undercover investigation, reliance on confidential sources and even the language.
While it would be hard to come up with a complete bible of journalistic laws that provides clear-cut directions and answers to what is responsible and what is not, I firmly believe that adherence to professional ethics, respect for the rule of law and respect for the fundamental rights of others would ultimately give birth to responsible journalism among practitioners. It is journalism that upholds the right of reply as sacrosanct and does not shy away from admitting error when they occur.