Claire Pierangelo, United States Consular general, Nigeria
Pierangelo

OBINNA EZUGWU

The United States government, has assured of its commitment to building capacity in media practitioners in Nigeria through necessary training programmes and seminars.

Principal Officer of the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos, Nigeria, Claire Pierangelo who gave the assurance in her opening remarks
at the 2021 World Press Freedom Webinar held virtually on Monday to mark this year’s World Press Freedom Day, noted that for many years, the U.S. Mission has funded training programmes for hundreds of Nigerian journalists on topics ranging from health reporting, defense and national security reporting, investigative journalism, election reporting, to media ethics.

The Webinar titled, “Frontiers of Health Reporting: New Insights, Fresh Perspectives,” organized by the Mission, was aimed at equipping health reporters in Nigeria with necessary skills and information to do their jobs better in the light of current global pandemic.

Anchored by Amarachi Ubani, Foreign Affairs Editor at Channels TV, the Webinar witnessed presentations by Fisayo Soyombo, Editor-in-Chief at Foundation for Investigative Journalism; Joshua Olufemi, Executive Director at Dataphyte; Abel Akeni, Head of Research and Policy Advisory at BudgIT and Oluwamayowa Tijani, Fact-Checking Journalist at Agence France-Presse, who took participants through the rigours of investigative health reporting as well as ways of detecting fake news.

Speaking on the essence of the Webinar, Pierangelo noted that as the world celebrates World Press Freedom Day today, the role of a free and independent press has become more important than ever. According to her, the theme of this webinar sets the tone as the global community unites to fight against COVID-19.

She assured participants that the United States government “will continue to emphasize the value of promoting and protecting a free press, because the media plays such an essential role in preserving democracy​ and, as we can witness these days, in providing information that saves lives.”

Continuing, she said, “We all know that a free press is essential to a healthy democracy. The news media can be a powerful force for change. It can effectively fulfill the roles of watchdog, gatekeeper, and agenda-setter. It can improve governance by raising citizen awareness of social issues, enabling citizens to hold their governments to account, curbing corruption, and creating a civic forum for debate. I challenge you to continue to play an effective role in amplifying important issues that affect citizens.

“As media professionals, you must continue to track political and institutional processes by which decisions are taken and implemented at the local, state, and national levels.  Your reports must critically analyze the methods and the effectiveness of projects in the field.

“The public depends on your reports – in print, audiovisual, and online – to assess how their elected representatives are performing.  As journalists, you can assess how health budgets are managed and whether there are adequate checks and balances in place for effective governance.  This is what allows citizens to know whether their local officials are fulfilling their promises and meeting their obligations.

“The U.S. government is committed to initiatives that build media capacity in Nigeria.  For years, the U.S. Mission has funded training programs for hundreds of Nigerian journalists on topics ranging from health reporting, defense and national security reporting, investigative journalism, election reporting, to media ethics.

“Webinars, seminars, workshops, and U.S. based training opportunities such as the International Visitor Leadership Program and Foreign Press Center International Reporting Tours demonstrate our commitment to the deep partnership that we have long enjoyed with Nigeria.

“We hope this webinar will help strengthen your capabilities and you will in turn provide more accurate information to Nigerians who will benefit from improved reporting on health, governance, and other crucial issues.”