IDPs muffled voices

August 3, 2019
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On Monday, a report on media reportage and portrayal of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria titled Muffled Voices will be launched in Lagos.

The survey conducted by Journalists for Christ, a faith based media group, with the support of World Association for Christian Communication (WACC), Bread for the World, and Waldensian Church’s Otto Per Mille (OPM), is based on two-month survey of six newspapers and two online platforms.

The report was informed by the need to have empirical evidence on the pattern of coverage of the plight of thousands of Nigerians who have over the years been displaced from their homes due to continued conflict situations in the country, especially due to insurgency and terrorists attacks and ensure the required response from government and other stakeholders.

Reports have indicated that those displaced, mostly women and children, have resorted to refuge in concentrated camps which are mainly un-used/abandoned school facilities or on open grounds with tents as shelter. There are usually few basic amenities in such camps, resulting in severe social and health related issues. Welfare; food, proper shelter and health needs are a significant concern. Sanitary conditions are generally poor. Close to 60 per cent of these IDPs are children.

Despite the various challenges they have to cope with, media coverage and reportage of IDPs revealed that information on the welfare and living conditions of the IDPs are usually restricted and not adequately reported. Institutional and humanitarian agencies to addressing the needs of IDPs are also inadequate.

This survey is therefore a needed resource to help the media play its expected role to give a voice to the displaced persons who are victims of the circumstances they found themselves.

Expectedly, the summary of the findings of the survey confirmed that the Nigerian media need to do more of ‘beyond the surface’ reporting of IDP issues as news items which are often ‘fluid’ in nature.”

“Reporting issues of IDPs require in-depth, incisive and more detailed reporting beyond events or statements from government officials.  Conclusively, from both the print and online media monitored, it is clear that there is little attention to the real issues affecting internally displaced persons in the country, and it can be deduced that the voices of IDPs would certainly not be captured in news stories, based on exiting journalism pattern that news stories are often around the influential personalities as the “news maker”,” the report stated.

In line with the recommendations of the report, the Nigerian media as an agent for setting the development agenda should continue to highlight issues and bring to the fore, concerns of persons affected by hostilities and conflicts, especially on the provision of welfare amenities, facilities and safe shelter, as part of the media’s social obligations.

Media reports should be more incisive, especially in investigating allegations of corruption in the management of resources for IDPs by government, non-governmental organisations and security officials.

More women and children who are the most vulnerable should be given space to air their concerns in media reportage, in fulfilment of media’s obligation as a voice to the voiceless.

Media organisations should endeavour to fund journalists to independently visit IDP camps to be able to publish incisive features articles, including objective reports on the management of the situation of life of IPDs in the camp instead of relying on press statements of agencies.

The National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons should utilise this report to work with journalists on how to get the true picture of the state of IDP camps in the country and make necessary recommendation to the government at all levels.

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