Austyn Ogannah, the President of Online Publishers Association of Nigeria (OPAN), is advocating that high ethical standards in online journalism in Nigeria must return so that eroding public trust can be restored.
Ogannah, 43, is also the President of media company THEWILL MEDIA and editor-in-chief of digital news news website THEWILL (www.thewillnigeria.com).
As the newly elected president and also a member of the board of trustees on OPAN – Nigeria’s premier association of digital/new media publishers and entrepreneurs, he has the task of achieving OPAN’s vision which is to restore eroding credibility, professionalism and trust once enjoyed by the digital media when it started over a decade ago.
OPAN’s goal is to instill the required high standards of quality, content and professionalism in the internet news media.
Founded in May 2010 and duly registered at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on 14th of November 2011 by some discerning professionals who felt the time had come to define standards for the fastest growing engagement platform of our generation, the idea of OPAN was conceived after founders recognized and understood the shift in the mode and means of social engagement, disruptions and changes that was coming which would overlap with current laws and rules guiding conduct and practice and therefore sought to create a self regulatory body that would provide the means-tested standards for users and practitioners to operate by.
It took founders many years to get the model running due to wide consultations amongst stakeholders, the public and private entities as well as learning from similar international bodies.
As a self-funded organisation, OPAN is modeled after similar international media associations with a mandate to self regulate members to maintain high ethical standards in digital publishing and uphold the sacred values and principles of journalism.
Ogannah through THEWILL has contributed immensely to the acceptability and credibility that internet media enjoys presently in the country with dozens of quality reporting and breaking news to its credit.
He was one of the very first to report the death of former President Musa Yar’Adua, who died in office on May 10, 2010 and the first to exclusively report on May 12, 2010, the international arrest and detention of a former governor of Delta State and highly influential member of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief James Ibori on charges of graft. Recently, THEWILL exclusively unmasked the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) as owner of the $43m found in an Ikoyi luxury apartment by the EFCC.
A graduate of the renowned University of Benin with a Bachelors Degree in English and Literature, Ogannah as most people who know him prefer to call him, has worked in the media space throughout his professional career, starting as a political reporter with Thisday newspaper and then rising to the position of special assistant to the chairman of the firm until he voluntarily resigned in 2006.
Speaking recently while briefing representatives of the media on the association’s upcoming Annual New Media Conference billed to hold in February 2018, Ogannah highlighted some crucial points, stating: “At inception, the internet news media was highly respected and revered by the public for its doggedness, fearlessness and resilience in bringing to light events and news that ordinarily would never be published by the traditional and establishment backed print media because of the influence that powerful public and private sector figures have over their owners and top editors. For the public then, the independent internet media (we were often called internet warriors) was the only trustworthy source for untainted and unbiased reporting. Sadly, that same unfaltering public trust is fast eroding.”
“Today, every tom dick and harry is a news site blogger or digital media entrepreneur or about to open shop without understanding the basic tenets of journalism (Truth, Trust and fairness). They write poorly, publish fake and disseminate unsubstantiated information, lack the capacity to create original content, plagiarise works of others, extort and blackmail people with threats to publish stories about them that are often times fake amongst several other odious practices that have brought damage to the credibility of the genre and threatening to destroy the hard and noble work of the pioneers of this space.
“In fact, because of these unscrupulous practices by these misfits there have been growing calls from the public for something to be done urgently to curb the madness and chaos and it is that call that I am taking on headlong as President of OPAN.
“OPAN’s Annual New Media Conference, slated for February 2018, is the platform amongst other initiatives that we intend to use to begin the debate because it brings every one to the table.”
“OPAN has severally voiced its openness to work with the federal legislative and executive arms of government to enact an enforceable law that is fair and just and does not impede the independence of the media in anyway whatsoever.
“The battle has just began but it must be won!”