The Inevitable Role of the Media and Its Practitioners in Child Protection: CNN’s Campaign against Modern Day Slavery: an Example to Celebrate

Commenting on the recent public outburst, which greeted what was erroneously said to be an endorsement of child marriage in Nigeria, I submitted that another issue to consider is the disposition of the mainstream print and electronic media to issues which are supposed to be of national importance. I believe that the mainstream media does not do enough to educate the people contrary to their traditional and constitutional responsibility as the Fourth Estate of the Realm. I think the major reason why the mainstream media fail to play their roles is that they do not set an agenda with a sense of mission to tackle issues of national importance, with a view to educating the members of the public to direct their social conscience and energy in the area of positive engagement, which would in turn engender social change.

I have found that the mainstream media joins the bandwagon in situations like this and embrace sensationalism over educative journalism. The mainstream media, which is believed to be run by professionals should not only exercise caution in the discharge of its historic duty, it must also moderate national debates and issues and set a long-term agenda for an issue. For example today, CNN has set agenda for bringing to the fore the evil of human trafficking around the world and it is doing everything professional to lead a meaningful global debate in this area. In March 2011, CNN launched The CNN Freedom Project, with the apt payoff, ‘Ending Modern-day Slavery.’ The crux of the campaign, which is boldly displayed on the website of the CNN is summed up thus, ‘CNN is joining the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on the horrors of modern-day slavery, amplifying the voices of the victims, highlighting success stories and helping unravel the complicated tangle of criminal enterprises trading in human life.’

Tony Maddox, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of CNN International declared, ‘this is not a problem that can be ignored. CNN will go to the places where the people traffickers ensnare their victims. And we will follow the routes through to markets where they get the best return on their haul. He continued, ‘CNN will use the full range of our international resources to track and champion this story. We will be in the countries where people are abducted, traded and passed into the hands of the smugglers. We will follow the routes as people are ruthlessly moved to areas where they can generate the highest return on investment. And we will be at the end of the line where men, women and boys and girls are over-worked, raped and abused, and when no longer of value, discarded.’

He concluded, ‘it is a story which is shocking and tough. But there are also many examples of great courage and inspiration. Of people who have made a stand, of groups who at great personal risk have taken the fight to the criminals. And of individuals who have found freedom, and have not let their experience break them. We want to highlight these important victories, these triumphs of human spirit…CNN will be proud to work with many of them as we put our resources behind this project throughout 2011. Because human trafficking is a shameful trade that must be stopped.’

The international news medium has lived up to the foregoing declarations. Apart from the fact that CNN features from time to time stories aimed at promoting the CNN Freedom Project, It has on its website pages dedicated to the project showing its efforts and results achieved so far. It provides on the site the database of charities working to expose and present modern-day slavery on country basis, hotlines around world for those in need of help, international groups. It gives people opportunity to report how they are taking a stand against slavery. It shares its parents’ and teachers’ guide for primary and secondary custodians to education the children and young people under their care on the evil of modern-day slavery. It also has on the site recent stories featured by the network. Some of the stories, which have caught my attention, particularly those who affect children are Chocolate’s Child Slaves, Operation Hope and The Fighters, just to mention a few.

I think, when we consider the unmitigated evil of child labour, which I dedicated a sub-session to earlier in this handbook, CNN must be commended for taking the monstrous and seemingly insurmountable bull of modern day slavery by the horn. The truth is that as at today, modern day slavery still exists but it is being crippled inch by inch and its ugly days, no matter how long are numbered. Clare Booth Luce makes is abundantly clear and I verily believe her that ‘there are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about then.’ I think this laudable commitment of CNN at the global level should inspire a media outfit in Nigeria sets an agenda to expose all the sides to child marriage in Nigeria.

Pathetically, many of the players in the mainstream media have operated as the social media in the times of national crisis than professional information disseminators. The social media is known for sensationalism. It establishes and maintains its relevance by giving a platform of expression to the peoples’ diverse views on a matter. Thus for example on a social media platform like Twitter, people look for what is trending. The social media does not have contents of its own. It waits to be fed by the users. The mainstream media should not be so. As a matter of fact it is not designed to be so. It is designed to provide contents to inform and educate the members of the public. Thus one of the cardinal selling points of the print and electronic media is quality contents. Contents should drive circulation, viewing or listening and the foregoing in turn should drive adverts. I believe any mainstream media, which is surviving on any other equation outside the foregoing is living on borrowed time. It is very sad today that many players in the mainstream media operate like the social media. They focus on a subject, which is trending and once the matter dies down, the media goes to bed and begins to wait in the fringe for another break. This kind of roller-coaster and opportunistic journalism hold no promise for meaningful nation building, It does not also hold any promise for the best interest of our children, who represent the future of our nation.

The mainstream media should moderate the anger of the populace by providing excellent and educative perspective to issues, through the instrumentality of professionalism. Where it fails in this onerous but inevitable, yet possible responsibility, it promotes intellectual chaos like we recently witnessed in the matter of the senate and child marriage. I guess the point I am trying to make is that the press cannot continue to play to the gallery in public debates; it must arise and set purposeful agenda for national development by focusing on the real issues and its importance to us as a people and not sensationalism as its presently plagued.

The truth is that knowledge and information, which is primarily the responsibility of the media to provide moderate national debate and create positive use of energy in the direction of positive national change. Lack of knowledge creates chaos. Chaos does not bring social change. Its lifespan is extremely short and cannot deliver meaning. Chaos delivers nothing but intellectual and emotional exhaustion, the forerunner of almost irredeemable frustration.

Thank you for visiting today. I charge you to Think the CHILD…Think TODAY…Think the Future…Do have an INSPIRED day.




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