I was scrolling through my spam mails a few days ago and I saw one of them that was a not spam. It was a summon from the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Cross River State Council.
The Union in the letter was summoning CrossRiverWatch to appear before the Ethics and Disciplinary Committee to explain why the media organization published a certain story. The charge was professional misconduct against some members of the NUJ, Cross River State Council.
The letter was signed by Denis Utang, a Deputy Director in the Ministry of Information who is the Chairman of the Committee and Dianabasi Effiong, the Calabar correspondent of NAN who is the Secretary of the Committee and addressed to Agba Jalingo, Publisher, CrossRiverWatch.
My initial reaction was to try and find out if the letter was directed to me in error. The writers indicated in their letter that it was a charge of professional misconduct against some members of the Union in the Cross River State Council and unless the membership of Agba Jalingo and CrossRiverWatch was conscripted, I cannot remember when and how we became “members of the NUJ, Cross River State Council”.
Yes, I am a Unionist, a very committed one at that but if I nurse the ambition of unionizing in Cross River, it is like we have started discussing, to form a union of online journalists in Cross River State.
In an environment like Cross River State where the “professional” media is sorely compromised, what the internet and social media has armed us citizens with is the invaluable tool which now serves as an indispensable watchdog for the mainstream media.
In a state that has endured sustained fettered, government-controlled and grossly under-funded Press; the Internet is elevating the hopes of Cross Riverians that a free press can still be cultivated in our state.
The pace and veracity with which websites, blogs and even personal walls are breaking and reporting news has overwhelmed the mainstream media. It has drastically reduced their impact and snatched the monopoly they hitherto enjoyed over information dissemination. No one is willing to wait until the vendor comes again.
In Cross River State, The birth of sites like www.crossriverwactch.com,www.calitown.com, www.uyocaliaxis.com and a host of others is challenging professional journalists in the state to do more investigative reports, to be more attentive to a multiplicity of perspectives.
For us in CrossRiverWatch, what drives us is our belief that a fully reported society is key to a functioning society, and that a shackled press and uninformed citizenry constitute a liability to democracy.
We will not stop our work. We will continue to try and stick to best practices in investigating and confirming our stories. Where we make mistakes we will accept responsibility but we will not be intimidated by the oppressive walls that have entrenched themselves in the carapace of the state.
* Agba Jalingo is the publisher of the online news medium, www.crossriverwatch.com
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