COMMUNIQUE OF INAUGURAL CONFERENCE HELD AT REIZ CONTINENTAL HOTEL, ABUJA, SEPTEMBER 3 – 4, 2014.
The Inaugural conference of the Association of Communication Scholars & Professionals of Nigeria [ACSPN] was held between September 3rd and 4th, 2014 at Reiz Continental Hotel, Abuja, Nigeria, on the theme “Communication, Diversity and Multiculturalism in Nigeria: Challenges in the 21st Century”.
The formal opening of the conference was chaired by the Director-General of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria [FRCN], Dr. Ladan Salihu and kicked off with a keynote address on “Bridging the Gap between Town and Gown” presented by His Excellency, the former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, represented by the Managing Director of New Telegraph Newspaper, Mr. Eric Osagie.
The Regional Director, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Prof (Mrs.) Hassana Alidou delivered an address expressing UNESCO’s willingness and readiness to partner with ACSPN for communication-based solutions to emerging challenges.
The conference was attended by prominent communication scholars and professionals based in Nigeria and in the Diaspora, as well as members of the civil societies and featured papers and presentations on various issues connected with the challenges of Nigerian diversity and multiculturalism and how communication and the media play different roles in worsening or resolving the challenges.
The conference made the following observations:
1. ACSPN is making its way into the communication and media environment in Nigeria when the country needs ethical and committed communication scholars and professionals that will be able to re-engineer peaceful co-existence amongst Nigerians in their diversity.
2. ACSPN has the potential of bringing communication scholars and professionals together, thereby bridging the gap between the town and gown for the purpose of driving the country to the desired goal of overall development.
3. The birth of ACSPN has a consequence that is aimed at re-fashioning communication training and media practices in Nigeria.
4. There is a need for modalities for harmonizing communication scholarship and practice by encouraging exchange through sabbatical interchange between scholars and professionals.
5. There is a need for a synergized robust research structure to be cosponsored by the government and the private sector.
6. Communication has the potential of providing antidote for eradicating fear, hatred and mistrust amongst Nigerians.
7. Diversity and multiculturalism have become challenges and retarding factors to Nigeria’s developmental goals and the mass media have potential power in exploring the diversity and multiculturalism to the advantage of the growth of the nation.
8. UNESCO is ready to partner with ACSPN. The Organisation is also working on promoting the protection of journalists and freedom of expression as multiculturalism and diversity cannot be promoted without the freedom of information and the press.
9. Poor mediation and handling of diversity and pluralism has been a media challenge in Nigeria and the media have not been able to change this attitude through the way they report conflict. In other words, Nigerian media have partly contributed to the poor image and handling of our diversity.
10. Conflict is a manifestation of fear from inability of Nigerians to accommodate their differences.
11. Nigerian media have been contributing to the power asymmetries through the biases in their representation or report marginalized group or minorities such as women.
12. Multiculturalism assists and enhances cooperation and unity and the media can provide a platform for this.
13. Despite the role of the media, the media is open to manipulations that are now being reinforced by technological developments.
14. The news, according to the presenter, accords prominence to the voices of the powerful who are the dominant sources.
The conference came up with the following recommendations:
1. ACSPN should partner with the NUC, NBTE and other regulatory authorities in re-designing the media and communication curriculum.
2. ACSPN should advocate for an improved welfare for media scholars and professionals in the country.
3. ACSPN should partner with the NUC, NBTE and other regulatory authorities to institute a 6-month mandatory industrial training for media and communication students in the country.
4. Conflict reporting should be included in the media and communication curriculum in the country.
5. Journalists should report conflict with a sense of utmost responsibility.
6. The use of inflammatory, misleading and sensational headlines by the media to attract sales should be discouraged.
7. Proper and responsible journalism should be encouraged among media professionals, particularly journalists, to reduce the psychology of fear intended by terrorist groups.
8. Young female communication scholars and professionals are encouraged to be active members of ACSPN as a way of improving their competencies and impacts in the industry.
9. ACSPN and other communication institutions and associations in public relations, marketing communications, broadcasting, film production, should promote professionalism in the practice.
10. There is need to review the culture and narrative that the media is portraying and entrenching as normal in society and reverse the inconsistencies in media content.
11. Communication scholars and professionals in Nigeria need to begin to frame children and youth issues as they are a weak/vulnerable group that must be given special attention.
12. Nigeria media need to get acquainted with and adopt the conflict sensitive approach in reporting elections in Nigeria.
13. The media should develop capacity as mediators in political conflict by paying careful attention especially to their gate-keeping, agenda setting and status conferral roles in political reporting process.