It is my pleasure to welcome you to this workshop on “Promoting democratic governance in Nigeria by improving transparency and accountability.” The United States places high value on the freedom of the press as a key component of democracy and this is evident in our constitution. The first amendment states that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” This is why the U.S. Embassy supports the International Center for Investigative Journalism (ICIR) to conduct this training. I am pleased that two of your resource persons, including the founder of the ICIR, are alumni of the State Department’s prestigious International Visitor Leadership Program. I am certain they will deploy some of their exposure to U.S. journalism during this program.
It is evident worldwide that a free press not only ensures that citizens are informed but endeavors to shine a spotlight on government, thereby promoting accountability and transparency. The information the press provides empowers the people to be actively involved in political decision-making, and to demand action where it is needed.
This workshop focuses on investigative journalism, an area which I would humbly suggest is a strong point of the U.S. press. One of the famous examples of investigative journalism in my country is the Watergate Scandal. Two reporters from the Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, exposed political corruption that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. This investigation demonstrated the power of the press to hold public officials accountable and thereby strengthen democracy.
Investigative journalism is of course a global practice – it isn’t necessarily contained by national borders. One great example of this, in which Nigerian journalists participated, was the so-called Panama Papers. That joint investigation by news media from around the world included Nigeria’s Premium Times. Their work revealed the complex network of offshore tax havens that powerful people across the world use to evade taxes and launder money. This report highlighted the importance of international cooperation for journalists in the course of their work. Through this workshop you will be exposed to resources outside your country that can be of immense support in your career.
Among the resource persons for this workshop is Steven Reiner, who is Director of Broadcast and Digital Journalism at Stony Brook University New York and was the executive producer of National Public Radio’s award-winning afternoon news magazine “All Things Considered.” He conducted very successful workshops for Nigerian radio journalists in Lagos and Abuja in May. So, I think we are fortunate to have Steven’s expertise in this training as well. He will be joining us virtually, so let’s keep our fingers crossed for good connectivity!
So, all of you, welcome and I hope you find the training valuable professionally. Good luck, and I look forward to the reports that you will be publishing. Thank you.