Nigerian newspaper Premium Times wants to “make its journalism more transparent, and its editorial decision-making more accountable.” To do so, the paper hired seven people to serve as ombudsmen for the paper and handle complaints about ethics and standards.
Premium Times announced the hires in a May 3 news story to mark Press Freedom Day. The seven ombudsmen are given the power to “make independent and binding decisions on breaches,” according to the newspaper, which was founded in 2011.
iMediaEthics has written to Premium Times to ask how the seven were selected, who they report to, if they can be fired or if they have contracts, and where and how often they will be published. We also asked how readers can contact the ombudsmen to complain or discuss concerns, and if their decisions will be made as a panel or independently.
“This development is consistent with the three key things that define the centerpiece of our values, and our journalism; that our first obligation here is to the pursuit of truth and accuracy; that our principal loyalty is to our readers; and our insistence that the essence of our journalism is to the discipline of verification,” Premium Times‘ publisher Dapo Olorunyomi is quoted as saying.
Olorunyomi explained that the ombudsmen panel allows the newspaper to have self-regulation and ensures it follows standards. “Without an independent professional oversight over a journalistic enterprise, the professional will be prone to egregious abuses and ethical failures that defeat the aspiration of a media that will support democratic development,” he is quoted as saying.
One of the seven ombudsmen, Chidi Odinkalu, told iMediaEthics, “We did not apply. We were selected.”
Odinkalu said the ombudsmen will develop the “operational parameters” of the panel.
The seven ombudsmen are:
- Former Guardian on Sunday editor Amma Ogan
- Macarthur Foundation regional director Kole Shettima
- Former National Human Rights Commissions chairman Chidi Odinkalu
- University of Maiduguri mass communication professor Muazu Mohammed
- Sociologist Zainab Said Kabir
- Executive director of Media Rights Agenda Edaetan Ojo
- Lawyer, human rights activist, columnist & TV host Ayo Obe
iMediaEthics has written to Shettima and Ojo and tweeted Kabir and Obe to ask who they report to and how they were selected.
iMediaEthics has also written to the Organization of News Ombudsmen to ask if it was involved or discussed the creation of the ombudsmen position with Premium Times. ONO is an international non-profit association for ombudsmen.