Nigeria and the New World Information and Communication Order By Gbemiga BamideleNewsdiaryonline Mon Nov 14,2011BamideleNew World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) is a campaignsponsored by the United Nations Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organization(UNESCO) to counter Media Imperialism by creating an information order thatgives a more balanced view of developing countries than has generally been bywestern press coverage. The intention of UNESCO with its InternationalProgramme for the development of Communication (IPDC) has been interpretedas a means of exerting greater national control over access to and use ofinformation. This, alleged the critics of the programme would constitute adangerous form of censorship.In a swift reaction to the UNESCO efforts toward actualization of New WorldInformation and Communication Order, and to ensure that the objectives werethwarted, the US Congress in 1981 directed the Reagan administration towithdraw its contributions to UNESCO, that is a quarter of its (UNESCO) budget,
if measures were taken to “restrict the free flow of information”. On December31, 1984, the United State of America (U.S) withdrew effectively from theorganization and was joined in its move, as usual, by the United Kingdom (UK).In what seemed to be a reaction to the US and UK action, African leaders in whatis called “Yamousoukrou declaration”, in 1985 states that “one of the main keysto solving African’s development problems lies in mastering the nationalmanagement of information in all its forms”. The text of the declaration thatappeared in an International Bureau of Information report (1986) argued thatinformation management and control are “not only a positive force for regionaland continental integration but also an essential condition for the survival ofAfrica within the community of nations in the twenty-first (21st) century”.New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO)The basic foundation of the New World Information and Communication Order(NWICO) movement was that of an imbalance existing in the direction, volume,and type of information exchange between adequately developed countries anddeveloping countries, which was detrimental to development and systemic innature. Of equal importance with and logically prior to this conception is theethical notion that information should be viewed as a shared resources or as asocial good rather than as a mere commodity.The committee set up by UNESCO in 1978 referred to as a committee of “wisemen and one woman” was chaired by Sean Mac-Bride, Former Secretary Generalof the International Commission of Jurists, to hear, distil and report on evidencesubmitted with regards to media information and interaction between theWestern and “Third World” countries. In particular, the committee was to reporton the impact of Western media technology, and the subsequent flow of western-oriented information, upon developing nations. The committee includingColombian novelist Gabriel Garia Margnez and Canadian media guru, MarshalMc Luhan produced a 484 page report in 1980.However, the New Word Information and Communication Order (NWICO) canbe said to mean an agitation by the developing countries for a two way, free,balanced flow of communication processes and information dissemination, by thedeveloping countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The NWICO movement began as a protest over the concentration of prints andbroadcast media ownership among the de-facto media cartels, and developedinto an agreement about the cultural dominance of poor nations by wealthy ones.The non-aligned countries have made a decisive contributions to thisinternational debate by directing their concerted efforts towards a Newinternational Economic Order which necessitated a new InternationalInformation Order. In 1973, meeting in Algiers, the Heads of States of the non-aligned countries recommended that “developing countries should take aconcerted action to re-organizing existing communication channels which are alegacy from the colonial past”.The range of problems sought to be addressed by NWICO proponents includecultural dominance and concentration of media ownership among the four mainwestern information agencies, i.e. United Press International (UPI) Reuters,Associated Press (AP). Agency France de Press (AFP) as well as TASS (FormerSoviet News Agency) to make five.It also includes the control of trans-border data flows by Multi-NationalCorporations, the effects of tourism and advertising, and the uneven worldallocation of radio, satellite and telecommunication technologies andinfrastructures. It upheld the assertion that these relationships ran counter to theinterest of the developing world, threating, self-determination and sovereigntyand economic development.UNESCO figures indicate that about 80% of world news emanates from five (5)transitional news agencies, i.e. AP, UPI, Reuters, AFP and TASS. They runbeaureaus all over the world with about 4,500 correspondents spread in morethan 120 countries. UPI, AP, Reuters, and AFP are all agencies owned by eitherUSA or countries like Britain and France which belongs to the U.S. Informationpole by coalition or alliance.The clamour for change of the disorder or imbalance then led to the NWICOproposal of November 28, 1978 at the twentieth general conference in Paris, inwhich the UNESCO issued a proclamation calling for the establishment of a NewWorld Information and Communication Order. The major documents of the
NWICO include the UNESCO’s statement on journalistic ethics, and the report ofthe international commission for the study of communication problems.The international commission for the study of communication problems had beenformed during the 19th general conference of UNESCO, held at Nairobi in 1976.This commission, operating under the presidency of Ireland’s former foreignMinister, Sean Mac Bride presented its interim report at the 1978 conference.This final report was published in 1980 under the title “Many voices, Oneworld”.The commission’s report seeks to provide an insight into among other things:-- The current state of world communication- The problem surrounding a free and balanced flow of information and howthe needs of the developing countries link with the flow.- How in the light of the new international economic order, a new order maybe created, and- How mass media can become vehicles for enhancing public opinions onissues.It also concluded, in the final analysis, that information is necessary to economicdevelopment and that any attempt to establish a New International EconomicOrder (NIEO) must incorporate or even depend upon, reform in the world ofcommunication system.Comparism between Media in Developed and Developing NationsThe increasing importance that the international community attaches to theestablishment of a more equitable and just information order is because
communication is central to the entire development process, be it economic,social, cultural, educational, scientific or political.According to Mainasara Yakubu Kurfi (2007), “developing countries wantinformation they receive to take into account their unique socio-political,national interests, as well as their national culture since it could further theirpolitical progress and improve their infrastructures”. As for information collectedby foreign news agencies in developing countries, it should objectively reflectinternal development, ruling out any prejudiced or biased coverage.It should be observed that the style, content, treatment and the perspective ofvirtually all news flowing in and out of Africa reflects the personality,preferences and needs of the western world. This is because of the negative,abnormal, rather than the positive “appeal” to audiences. Internal orinternational crises like HIV/AIDS, unemployment, violence, hunger, wars,disaster, occupy the forefront in the bulk of the coverage of Africa in the world ofboth prints and broadcast media.Western news agencies hardly recognize the need for communication to servedevelopmental needs of developing countries because their clients and interestsdo not subscribe to such, and their agencies’ main markets are not in thedeveloping countries.There is also a conflict of interest on the communication concept on what is newsworthy, between these two divides. In the Western world, news agencies boughtand sold news like any other commodities. The raw materials from which news isfashioned are events that may or may not be accessible to all.Naturally, developing countries that trade in news would like to have a freeaccess to all events with communication values. These include the acts ofgovernments, officials, elite groups, and individuals. These acts in themselves arenot necessarily news, they only become news after being processed. As a result ofdependence on the international agencies, Africans see themselves and theirneighbors through foreign eyes such as CNN, BBC World Service, Satellite and
the Internet, etc. No nation can claim to be free if its media is under foreigndomination. Intellectual and cultural dependence is worse than economic and /or political independence. Massive penetration of foreign news values throughthe mass media can deform traditional values and is detrimental to thedevelopment of national culture in emerging societies. Media of developingcountries are expected to function as part of the national efforts in the task ofmodernization and nation building. These include upholding the political system,helping citizens to understand that the nation does exist and trying to overcomepoverty, illiteracy, ignorance, unemployment etc.Rather, developing countries have long held a heart-felt belief that westernagencies report only the bad news of what happens in their countries and thatthis bad news, based upon what Anthony Smith (1980) in his book “TheGeopolitics of Information” terms aberrational criteria for news selection causes seriousharm, especially when such countries are in need of Western Financial support and investment.Nigeria and New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO)The position of Nigeria is not in any way different from other developing nations. To say Nigeriais affected by the one-way distorted and deliberately planned pattern of information flows in andoutside the country is an understatement.Nigeria has been a mere consumer of information from the media of developed nations which ishostile to the country’s socio-cultural and economic developments. International broadcast medialike the Cable Network News (CNW), Sky News, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC),Radio France International, Radio Deutsche elle among others have become the main source ofinformation in Nigeria. These Foreign media are like a mirror where we see ourselves and shapeour opinions and dictate what we should do or otherwise.Regardless of the country’s problems ranging from inadequate and dilapidated equipment;unprofessionalism in the media, lack of ICT knowledge, inadequate funds, among others, thequestion to ask is how can Nigeria outlive the inequalities of wealth and therefore of cultural andmedia provision between so-called core nations and peripheral nations, and the serious andongoing information gaps between them; gaps which are unlikely to be bridged until thestructures of deprivation are removed?.
In an attempt to answer this question, there is therefore the need to look at agencies throughwhich the NWICO agenda could be sustained in Nigeria. These agencies are: News Agency ofNigeria (NAN) and Voice of Nigeria (VON). NAN has offices in the New York, Britain andother foreign countries all over the world, and has exchange agreements with AP, Reuters, AFP,TASS and prominent others. In an attempt to address the problem of Information flow from theNorth to the South without considering the faith of developing countries, it is an editorial policyof NAN that all materials from the trans national news agencies have to be processed by theeditors to eliminate pejorative words, foreign imaging and style…” so as to reflect the Nigerianperspective. This is to say that NAN can effectively be utilized in alleviating the problem ofimbalance flow of information.The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) was established in 1976 to gather and distribute news onNigeria and cover events of interest to Nigeria at the International level for the benefit of theNigerian media and general public.The objects of the agency as enshrined in section 2, subsection (1) of Decree 19 of May 10, 1976are as follow:a. To seek, obtain and otherwise receive through subscription, payment exchange or othermeans, international, regional or local and other news material and news features;b. To distribute such news materials and news features to subscribers against payment either inthe form of fees or news exchange or on such other terms as may be agreed;c. To present complete, objective and impartial information, news or news materials or featureson any matter of public or national interest within and outside Nigeria; andd. To report thoughtfully and fairly, without prejudice to public and national interest, the viewsof all sections of the populations of the federation.Efforts targeted towards fulfillment of aforementioned aims and intentions include thepromulgation of an editorial policy which stated that “the primary duty of the agency is to upholdthe integrity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and promote harmonious relationships among thedifferent groups”.
It stated further that “News and Comment emanating from the agency must be truthful, honestand fair, but must not jeopardize peace and harmony in the country”.The Agency must bring enlightened opinion to bear in discussing and international issues. Itmust positively influence public opinion and contribute to the evolution and formulation ofcorrect national policies.It enjoined the agency to promote understanding among the peoples of the ECOWAS sub-region,the African Union (A.U) and the world in general. It also encourage respect for the integrity ofmember countries of the ECOWAS and African Union. In its role as the national purveyor ofnews and opinion, and of esponsing the pubic good, the News Agency of Nigeria must not act asan institutional opponent to any government or interests; but where it is in the public interest toreport criticism of public policy, it must do so in a restrained and objective manner.On sovereignty or unity of Nigeria, the editorial policy of the Agency warned that “neutrality isnot expected of the agency. It must come out firmly on the side of Nigeria without prejudice toits adherence to the truth which must at all times be its guiding light and governing principle”.The Voice of Nigeria (VON), also referred to as “the authoritative choice” came into existence in1961 as the external service of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) which laterbecame the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN). On January 5, 1990, it was excisedfrom the FRCN by Decree No 15 of May 14, 1991 with retroactive effect. The enabling lawstipulates that “The Corporation shall with the exclusion of any other broadcasting authority orany other body in Nigeria, be responsible for broadcasting externally, by radio, Nigeria’s viewpoint to any part of the Word”.Voice of Nigeria (VON), as the sole agency for international broadcasting in Nigeria has alsotaken steps to have cordial relationship with similar bodies all over the world. VON is currentlyhaving memoranda of understanding with Radio France International (RFI), Radio DeutcheWelle (DW), Radio Sudan, SABC-Channel Africa etc. Mutually beneficial collaborativerelationship and synergies with several others are also in existence.Infact, VON Staff, on intern with international broadcasting stations, have always been found tobe in top form and well groomed.
However, it is important to note that in as much as NAN and VON are positioned to achievethese patriotic endeavors and snatch Nigeria from the clutches of the media of the richer sectionsof the world with their domination of world opinion and continuous morale and culturalpollution. They are confronted with several problems ranging from lack of equipment, skilledwork-force; particularly, journalists that requires consistent training and re-training towardsenhancement of capacity; inadequate funds to purchase modern and sophisticated equipments forgathering, storing, retrieving and dissemination of information as to compete with the likes ofAFP, Reuters, AP, CNN,BBC, VOA etc.An effective information system is a technique through which information in all areas of humanendeavour is collected, collated, processed, stored, retrieved and disseminated. This makes theinformation system an indispensable tool for modern economies and fully justifies its inclusionin the visioning process of Nigeria. It should go beyond foresighting and imagination toactuality.Finally, it should not be seen as an impossibility to create and enabling environment for a NewNigerian Information Order. The most significant thing is to strengthen the structures that aresupposed to drive the initiative towards its actualization.Do not hesitate to contact Bamidele on firstname.lastname@example.org or / and +234(0)8033237973for interaction on this subject, please.ReferencesInformation Technology and Development: A new World Order:http//www.sbear.uca.edu/research/2001 ACME/128aeme-o1.htmMac Bride S (1981) Many Voices, One World. Communication and Society Today andTomorrow: Ibadan University PressPate U (2007) “Rethinking the New World Information and Communication Order in the Era ofGlobalization” unpublished, Bayero University, Kano
The New World Order and the Geo-politics of Information. http/issuissu./france.com/eunmaf/base nwegcoinfo.html.