Brenda Akpan is the pioneer National President of the National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) which came about in the late 80s. In this chat with ZAINAB SULEIMAN OKINO, the media activist and delegate at the National Conference disc
What do you think of the attempt to gag the media at the ongoing National Conference?
Order 14, Rule 7 was presented in a nutshell says: “The conference may grant approval to the representative of any media to attend the sitting of the conference, provided that the media does not publish proceedings which the conference considers unfair, offensive and not a true reflection of what transpired. Such permission may be revoked” if there is anything to the contrary.
I think this is very unfair to the media. I think that two questions arise from this: Who determines what is fair? Is there any mechanism put in place for defence?
If you think the media has offended the house, how does it defend itself? We may be passing judgment where we shouldn’t. I think that while the media strives to play by the rules, and be fair and balanced in its reporting, abide by the ethics of the profession, on our part as distinguished delegates to this conference, we should try to cooperate with the media. By all intents and purposes, most of us in this conference are new to settings like this.
A conference of this magnitude calls for reservations here and there. In language and demeanor, some of us have been very new. Therefore we shouldn’t make implicative statements. When we wish to speak to the press and find our faces on the pages of newspapers, and hear voices on radio and see our faces on televisions, I want to urge and plead with distinguished delegates to this conference to please be careful in order not to make implicative statements and where we are not sure of what we have said, we should call back the reporter and finalise issues with him before we let him go, so that we will not keep accusing the press of misquoting us here and there.
I think the media in this country is a responsible one and will continue to live up to its expectation.
Do you think media representatives at the conference have had enough time to air their views?
It has been an upsetting situation. Today I had to stand up in protest. Nobody cares, nobody recognizes you. We came here since yesterday morning. If you look at the video, you would discover that my hand had been up. I know we are many and it has become difficult for officers on the high table but then you keep calling the very people you called yesterday and recognizing them. We are completely abandoned, it might not be intentional. I think this is very wrong. But the fact may be that we do not have enough time. We are representing the NUJ, NAWOJ and Guild of Editors; no one has been able to speak. Only the BON representative has been able to speak. I feel very unhappy. I have not been able to air my views on anything.
What do you suggest?
We give them the benefit of doubt. It is not easy for them too. We do hope that in the course of time things would ease off. And very soon we would break into committee sessions and we will be able to express ourselves and then come back to plenary and discuss those issues. Let’s see how it goes.
What is the media bringing to the conference?
In my opinion, my expectation is that this conference will come out with very successful deliberations to be able to regenerate Nigeria. I can see that the selection of delegates is apt. I can see the order paper on the rules we have just discussed. I do not want to pre-empt what will happen to the report of this conference. When we finish our assignment at this level, it will be left for those who brought us here to tell us what to do next. Let us not pre-empt but I think it has been a good forum for us to dialogue over issues of concern to many in this country. It has served as a bridge. It has helped us to communicate on various issues and hear the other side of the argument. I’m sure that at the end of the day, we will be able to put our different positions on the table and carve out a niche for ourselves, and history will forever remember us for that.
What do you think of suggestions to subject the Confab outcome to a referendum
We don’t have any powers whatsoever over the outcome of this conference. Let us get to the bridge and we will know how to cross it.