BEING PAPER WITH THE TITLE “ BEST ETHICS OF A JOURNALIST IN REPORTING HAJJ“ PRESENTED BY THE DIRECTOR GENERAL FEDERAL RADIO CORPORATON OF NIGERIA DR MANSUR LIMAN AT THE INAUGURATION OF THE NATIONAL MEDIA TEAM FOR 2019 HAJJ AT THE NATIONAL MOSQUE ABUJA ON THE 13TH OF JUNE 2018
Alhamdulillahi rabbil aalameen. Was salaatu was salaamu ala ashraful mursaleen sayyidina Muhammadi wa ala aali sayyidina Muhammadi wa ashaabihi ajma’een.
Rabish-sharil sadri, Wa Yasri Amri, Wah’lul uqdatan min Lisaani, Yafqahu Qauli…..
Wa Ba’ad Assalamu alailkum –warahmatullahi wa barakatuhu …..
I thank you most sincerely for inviting me to give this talk on the essentials a reporter needs to ensure effective coverage of the forthcoming Hajj exercise.
The title of the paper is “Ethics of a journalist in Hajj Coverage” .
The National Hajj Commission must be commended for deciding to refresh the minds of journalists on the best practices that they are expected to imbibe and utilise in the coverage of the forthcoming Hajj.
The Hajj, as one of the five pillars of Islam, is an obligatory act on any Muslim who has the means to perform it. It is a once in a lifetime experience for many Muslim, especially the majority of those who will be going from Nigeria. It is the largest collection of people in a single sacred location.
And for journalists who are given the rare privilege to cover the Hajj, it is important that they strive and wake up to the challenge of promoting a better understanding of the Hajj. Exercise.
Basically, the Core Ethics of journalism is the same and cuts across all genres of the profession.
They are therefore the same weather you are covering the National Assembly, the seat of government at the Presidential Villa, the economy/business sector, environment or the coverage of the Hajj.
Since I am addressing a gathering of veteran journalists, I am sure everyone is conversant with these core values. So mine here is a reminder, as Allah enjoyed us in the Holy Quran:
Fazakkir, Inna Zikra tanfa’ul Mu’minin.
Remind, Indeed rememberance benefits the believers
So the tenets of Editorial Independence, Accuracy and fairness, Respect for privacy, Decency, Privilege and Non-disclosure, Public Interest, and social responsibility all constitute what has been described and accepted as Ethics of journalism.
In the time allotted to me, it won’t be possible to explain one after the other all these concepts, but I will try to bring to bear what each of us selected to cover the Hajj should do as we go about carrying out this very important assignment.
Underpinning these Ethics is that journalism entails and does require a high degree of public trust if we are to succeed as practitioners in these endeavours. To engender and sustain this trust, one thing is constant. And that constant is TRUTH.
Truth is the cornerstone of our profession. And it is the overriding pre occupation of all journalists to ascertain the truth of every event that happens or he or she comes across in the daily discharge of their duties.
In the search for this TRUTH, journalists must imbibe the concepts of fairness, balance and objective reportage of events and issues.
All journalists must distinguish between facts and comments. As the professional dictum goes, Facts are sacred while comments are free. Reporters are expected to go the extra length to cross check and double check facts before filing in their reports.
There are numerous examples in Islam, where these values, have roots; And Muslims, we are expected to abide by them in our individual dealings and dealings with one another.
Ya ayyuhal ladhina amanu ittaqul lah, wa kunu ma’as sadiqeen.
O you Who believe, Have FEAR of God, and be among the truthful.
And the Hadith of the Rasulillah (saw);
“Man kāna yu ‘minu billāhi wal yawmil ‘ākhir fal yaqual khayran au li yasmut….
Whoever believes in Allah (swt) and the last day, should speak good or remain silent.
The 10 golden rules on ethics and social etiquette from Surah Hujurat
These people are the most honourable in the eyes of Allah (swt)
The Holy Quran was sent down in order as a righteous guidance for people to learn from and to utilise as a means to gain closeness to Allah (swt).
One example of the best of guidance comes from Chapter 49 of the Quran, Surah Hujurat, which came down to the Prophet in the city of Medina. In this short Chapter, (containing on 18 verses) Allah (swt) instructs us on how to deal with one another with the best social etiquette. Here are 9 examples from this Chapter:
- Fa Tabayanu
يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓاْ إِن جَآءَكُمۡ فَاسِقُۢ بِنَبَإٍ۬ فَتَبَيَّنُوٓاْ أَن تُصِيبُواْ قَوۡمَۢا بِجَهَـٰلَةٍ۬
“Oh you who believe; if an evil-doer comes to you with a report, look carefully into it, lest you harm a people in ignorance.” [Verse 6]
Here the believers are instructed to look carefully into the news and reports that are given to us, in order to distinguish right from wrong, ahead of disseminating it to others. If we don’t do this, it becomes easy to distribute false information and this can harm those around us who may take the reports at face value.
- Fa Aslihu
وَإِن طَآٮِٕفَتَانِ مِنَ ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنِينَ ٱقۡتَتَلُواْ فَأَصۡلِحُواْ بَيۡنَہُمَاۖ
“And if two parties of the believers quarrel, make peace between them.” [Verse 9]
This one is pretty self-explanatory. If there is a group who is quarreling, taking the initiative to resolve the problems between them is something that is not only rewarding in this life but also in the hereafter. The same verse continues to discuss justice:
- Wa Aqsitu
فَإِن فَآءَتۡ فَأَصۡلِحُواْ بَيۡنَہُمَا بِٱلۡعَدۡلِ وَأَقۡسِطُوٓاْۖ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يُحِبُّ ٱلۡمُقۡسِطِينَ
“Then if it returns [the quarrel] make peace between them with justice and act equitably; surely Allah loves those who act equitably.” [Verse 9]
Again, it reminds us to keep the peace but to ensure that one is fair and just in the resolving of this issue. Further to this, it serves as a reminder as to the qualities that Allah (swt) wishes for the believers to have and in this case, it is being equitable.
- La Yaskhar
يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لَا يَسۡخَرۡ قَوۡمٌ۬ مِّن قَوۡمٍ عَسَىٰٓ أَن يَكُونُواْ خَيۡرً۬ا مِّنۡہُمۡ
“Oh you who believe; let not (one) people laugh at (another) people, perchance they may be better than them.” [Verse 11]
It is often we look down on people as we believe that they are lesser than us in some way. Here we are instructed not to laugh or mock others, especially since there is a chance that they are better than us in some way or another. This verse then continues to discuss name calling:
5/6. Wa La Talmizzu, Wa La Tanabazu
وَلَا تَلۡمِزُوٓاْ أَنفُسَكُمۡ وَلَا تَنَابَزُواْ بِٱلۡأَلۡقَـٰبِۖ
“And do not find fault with your own people, nor call one another nicknames.” [Verse 11]
This leads on from the previous part and reinforces the fact that name calling may be a side-effect of putting yourself on a pedestal ahead of others. It also reminds us to avoid doing one of the things that is extremely rife in a good many communities, and that is finding fault within our own ranks.
- Ijtanibu Katheeran Minal Than
يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ ٱجۡتَنِبُواْ كَثِيرً۬ا مِّنَ ٱلظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعۡضَ ٱلظَّنِّ إِثۡمٌ۬ۖ
“Oh you who believe; avoid most of suspicion for surely, suspicion in some cases is a sin.” [Verse 12]
Many times we tend to base our ideas on people on sneaking suspicions on who they are rather than who they truly may be. Allah (swt) also warns us that at times, suspicion is akin to a sin.
- Wa La Tajassasu
“And do not spy on one another.” [Verse 12]
This one really is a no-brainer but is something so incredibly vital to so many of our modern day surveillance states. With this, Alla (swt) reminds us that for the best social etiquette, one should avoid it.
- Wa La Yaghtaaba Ba’thukom Ba’th
وَلَا يَغۡتَب بَّعۡضُكُم بَعۡضًاۚ أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُڪُمۡ أَن يَأۡڪُلَ لَحۡمَ أَخِيهِ مَيۡتً۬ا فَكَرِهۡتُمُوهُۚ
“And do not backbite one another. Does one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother, and you abhor it.” [Verse 12]
The Quran here brings forth a comparison to highlight how heinous the act of backbiting is, and likens it to devouring the flesh of your own brother. For a functioning society and for people of high morals, one should not backbite.
- Inna Akramakom ‘ind Allah Atqaakom
إِنَّ أَڪۡرَمَكُمۡ عِندَ ٱللَّهِ أَتۡقَٮٰكُمۡۚ
“Surely the most honourable of you with Allah is the one among you who is most careful of his duty.” [Verse 13]
The start of this verse is usually cited when it comes to discussion on marriage and equality, reminding people that they were created of a male and a female and into tribes and families so that we may get to know one another. The verse then continues to highlight one of the most important verses on equality, reminding us that nothing puts one human over the other in the eyes of Allah, not gender, faith, tribe or anything in between; the ones who are most honourable in the eyes of the Lord is one who carries himself with taqwa, piety, and God consciousness.
Journalists who have been selected to cover the Hajj exercise, have a responsibility to inform, educate and positively prepare pilgrims, many of whom may be going to the holy land for the first time, for the challenges of the Hajj, which to anyone who has been and participated in the pilgrimage, know are very many.
To effectively carry out this onerous responsibility, the journalists must him or herself be educated about the Hajj. For its only with knowledge, that one can effectively inform and educate. Journalists must go out of their way to study the Hajj process so that at their fingertips they know what the entire process entails from beginning to the end. That is the only way they can properly carry out these responsibilities.
This is where the National Hajj Commission has an onerous responsibility. Officials must be very ready and handy with the latest information about their activities. For too long, crucial information is usually withheld from the intending pilgrims and the public at large.
This does not in any way assist in the overall management of the hajj exercise. While journalists covering are admonished to ensure fact-based reportage, this can only happen if NAHCON is ready to carry the journalists as partners and also as confidants in all that they do.
Another critical issue that has gained currency in recent times is that of fake news and hate speech. Journalists covering the hajj must be on the lookout for fake news. Unscrupulous persons have impersonated government and other public officials through use of fake Twitter handles and Face book pages. We must therefore fact check every information that comes through to us via the social media or other sources before reportage or broadcast.
The Hajj exercise is of necessity an International event. Journalists must therefore understand that there are diplomatic niceties that should be observed in the reportage. Our main area of focus is to report the Nigerian Hajj to Nigerians and not to disrupt the otherwise cordial relations between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia.
I hope that in this brief presentation, I have tried to present in a nutshell what reporters should abide by in the coverage of the Hajj exercise. Cooperation between NAHCON, who are the official government regulator for Hajj in this country and journalists, is crucial, if the nation is to witness another successful hajj exercise.
The NACON under the present management must be commended for the great improvements in the conduct of pilgrimages in the country. They deserve the support of all, most especially members of the fourth estate of the realm to take it to the next level.I wish you successful coverage of the 2019 Hajj. I thank you for listening.
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