Last week, representatives of the media and politicians engaged each other in an interesting discourse on how to obviate a nasty election in December.
Given the high stakes in the electoral contest and the charged atmosphere, such an engagement provided a chance to interrogate the sources of violence with a view to nipping them in the bud.
It offered a rare opportunity for both sides to state their concerns, especially as it was obvious that politicians did not know much about the operations of newspapers. The dearth of such knowledge has led to misconstruing the judgments of editors in the selection of stories and even headlining.
The media was, by and large, put on the spot in a manner which unfortunately suggested irresponsibility on the part of editors, a shortcoming journalists share with politicians anyway.
While we appreciate the IEA gesture which enabled us to gauge the impressions about our performance on the political space, especially our coverage of politics, we would plead that politicians take time to understand our operations and the challenges which militate against the task of reporting in an environment which is far from ideal.
In a country where the reading public would shun development-oriented stories and rather go for political stories, there is little wonder why most newspapers would settle for such stuff.
With the cover prices alone not enough to cushion the economic challenges newspapers encounter in the course of their operations, the principal source of revenue, advertisements, has been subtly used as a means of cowing so-called unfriendly media.
Most people, politicians in particular, have not considered what vacuum the absence of the private media would create in the democratic space of our country. Such a vacuum would render our democracy incomplete since especially the state run-media cannot adequately put government on it toes in a manner that would be meaningful to our democratic development.
Politicians, especially those in government, should be sincere enough to consider how starving newspapers is tantamount to killing democracy.
Media operations would ordinarily not meet the expectations of politicians by and large, given the probing nature of journalists. Indeed, the two set of players were not created to like each other.
That is not to state that we should undertake our work, unmindful of the repercussions some of these would have on the security and overall interest of our nation. This we have generally done.
The media, being a microcosm of our community, definitely has bad nuts whose work has dented the image of the profession in varied forms. That is not to state that a democracy can survive without a media.
Perhaps, what we should be considering now is how to support the private press to be financially viable enough to operate without becoming attached to the apron strings of politicians.
When politicians, especially those from government, set off on the path of pooh-poohing the media, they should remember how their subtle restrictions on advertisement inflow inhibit the economic survivability of such business ventures. We shall return.