There are times you get upset about a news organization or a report published or aired by that news organization, more so in this era of ‘fake news’ and reckless ‘fast food’ journalism. May be you’re not happy with what a particular news organization in Nigeria has done and you want to seek redress. You’ve tried to reach out to the news organization to correct the error they’ve made or to caution their journalist but nothing has happened to that effect. The next big question that comes to your mind is “where should I turn?”
Well, a good place to start is to read this article. It contains a quick guide on how you can get justice for any wrong done to you by the mass media in Nigeria. This article focuses on how you can lodge a complaint with the Nigeria Press Council (NPC) and get redress without distress.
The NPC is an Ombudsman you can always run to whenever you have complaints against the mass media in Nigeria. An ombudsman is an official appointed to investigate individuals’ complaints against a company or organization, especially a public authority. There are ombudsmen that handle complaints against the mass media in Nigeria and one of them is the NPC. We will provide the procedure you can use in reaching out to the NPC with your complaints over any issue against the mass media in Nigeria but first, let’s tell you a bit about this Council. You need to have an understanding of what the NPC is all about to know how to follow through your complaints.
What is a Press Council?
Press Councils are self-regulatory bodies set up by the media themselves – although they are normally given a high degree of operational independence in order to maintain public confidence. Their primary responsibility is to oversee Codes of Practice which set out both professional standards for journalists and to provide a platform for people featured in the news media to express their dissatisfaction through official complaints whenever they observe that something published or aired by news organizations is inaccurate or intrusive. These Codes of professional practice which the NOC uses in monitoring media houses generally contain ethical rules that are over and above legal requirements. Press Councils provide a platform for people to complain for free and without legal representation on any issue against news organizations. This is a form of corporate responsibility function played by Press councils and this helps generate trust in the quality of news put out by media organizations. Press Councils are very essential in the society because they promote responsible journalism. They ensure that the mass media play their social responsibility to the public.
Brief info about Nigeria Press Council
The Nigerian Press Council (NPC) is a parastatal established by the Nigerian Press Council Act No. 85 of 1992 (as amended in Act 60 of 1999). Its primary responsibility is to ensure the maintenance of high professional standards for the Nigerian Press. Like most other Press Councils around the world, the functions of the Nigerian Press Council are basically premised on ethical standards.
The NPC consists of bodies that wield enormous influence on the operations of media houses and behaviour of journalists, and other media workers. These component bodies include the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria (BON), News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), educational institutions involved in the training of journalists, and representatives of the general public.
Functions of the NPC
The NPC was established to play the following basic functions as contained in the Press Council Decree: (a) Enquiring into complaints about the conduct of the press and the conduct of any person or organization towards the press and exercising in respect of the complaints the powers conferred upon it under the Decree; (b) Researching into contemporary press development and engaging in updating press documentation; (c) Fostering the achievement and maintenance of high professional standard by the press; (d) Reviewing and advising on developments likely to hamper press freedom or free flow of information from the press to the public; (e) ensuring the protection of rights and privileges of journalists in lawful performance of their professional duties
Here is how you can lodge your complaint with the NPC and get redress for your perceived grievances. You have to be patient with the process because it might take a while for investigations to be carried out before final verdict on the matter is taken and you get redress if your complaint is certified to be genuine. This procedure for complaint is clearly spelt out on the website of the NPC. We have broken down the complaints procedure in simple terms for you below;
Handling of Complaints
Complaints you send to the NPC are handled by in the Complaint unit of the Research and Documentation Department headed by a Chief Research Officer. Once you send the complaint, it will be acknowledged by the unit in charge within 48 hours and this acknowledgement would be sent to you via mail online or offline. Investigation on the matter then begins and this is what is called “processing of the complaint”. This is done by way of investigation which is carried out within two weeks to allow for wide consultations and reflections on the matter. The investigation is always very thorough and based on details of the complaints you sent to the NPC.
After processing of the complaint, a written notification is sent to the media, corporate body or persons concerned, that is, to notify them if there is a prima facie breach of media ethics or rights. This is then followed by preparation of a brief for the adjudication of complaints for the Council Adjudication Committee. The parties involved (the media organization and the person who lodged the complaint) then receive the decision of the Adjudication Committee. This is how the NPC ensures you get redress for any wrong done to you by the mass media in Nigeria.
So what can you complain about?
You might be asking yourself “what can even complain about?” Probably you do not want to wait until things get pretty bad before you decide to lodge complaints against news organizations in Nigeria. No, you don’t have to wait until things get pretty bad. You actually need to know what you can complain about so you can begin the process early enough to seek redress. So what can you complaint about? This is also spelt out on the NPC website. Here’s what it says:
Any member of the public (or party for that matter) is entitled to lodge a complaint against a newspaper or magazine or any other media in print, provided the complaint is one of unethical conduct. You can complain if:
Anything unethical is published about you in any medium of information in Nigeria.
Anything considered unethical is done in respect of you by any journalist in his capacity as a journalist.
Anything is done against the journalist that is capable of limiting the preservation of the freedom of the press guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
When should you complain?
Don’t just jump into conclusions that you’ve been hurt without being sure of what you’re doing. Don’t make it an exercise in futility or make yourself a subject of caricature for lodging an unfounded complaint. Before you complain, just make you are satisfied that you have invited the attention of the medium concerned to what you deem objectionable and you are not satisfied with the way the matter was handled by the medium. This way, you will have a strong case against the news organization involved.
How you can Complain
This is very important. It is not enough to be satisfied it is time to complain. You also need to know how to complain in order to get the desired attention. Here’s how you can complain: You should provide a written complaint stating the crux of the matter and this should be accompanied with evidence for ease of reference. After writing this you then send it to the NPC online or offline. The reason you provide a written complaint is because the Council will only treat written complaints. If necessary, seek legal assistance in preparing your complaint so that it will be well structured and capable of presenting valid evidence of the unfair treatment against you by the press.
Where you can complain
The NPC has made it easy for complaints against the mass media in Nigeria to be sent to the council. You can deliver your written complaints by hand or by post to the Council’s corporate head office in Abuja or its liaison office, Lagos. You can also send your complaints through the Council’s e-mail with relevant documents scanned and attached. This way you do not have to bother yourself with rigours of travelling up and down to seek redress.
Here’s the address of the NPC where you can lodge your complaints.
Head office address:
Nigerian Press Council,
No. 26, Bissau Street, Zone 6, Wuse,
P.M.B. 377, Garki, Abuja.
Tel: 07098211665, 07098211667, 07098211668
Lagos Liaison office:
Nigerian Press Council,
15, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi,
P.M.B. 3451, Surulere, Lagos.
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hope you’ve learnt what or two things about how you can hold Nigerian journalists accountable for whatever unfair practice you see in their activities.