Whistle-blowing: MacArthur Foundation establishes fund to assist journalists

The John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation (MAF), has set up a civic defence funds to assist journalists, civil society, and private sector actors that are facing reprisals or attacks emanating from blowing the whistle or speaking out against corruption.

The fund, which was set up in partnership with three other Foundations, was made known by MAF Country Deputy Director, Dayo Olaide, at a one-day media training organised by the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) in collaboration with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) and Progressive Impact Organisation for Community Development (PRIMORG) in Abuja.

Olaide, in a goodwill message at media training, said the civic defence funds were put in place by the Foundation and partners as a means of providing protection for embattled journalists and citizens who report wrongdoing.

He encouraged citizens who are suffering as a result of blowing the whistle to feel free to assess the funds.

Coordinator of AFRICMIL, Chido Onumah, in his opening remark, said the training was necessary in order to provide support for whistle blowers facing reprisals.

The coordinator, who represented by AFRICMIL Senor Program Officer, Godwin Onyeacholem, said the training was also intended to benefit the journalists who by virtue of their profession were whistleblowers.

“AFRICMIL believes that by the nature of their job, journalists are also whistle-blowers and should have as much stake as other agencies in not only entrenching the culture of speaking up against wrongdoing, but also in the practice of standing up for anyone facing reprisals,” he said.

Onyeacholem further revealed that AFRICMIL would also organise training for public interest lawyers in Lagos and Abuja, who will offer pro bono services for whistleblowers facing victimisation.

In his presentation, the Deputy Editor, Daily Trust, Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, who is also AFRICMIL’s consultant, said Nigerian journalists ought to make deliberate efforts in encouraging Nigerians to expose corruption by virtue of the provisions of Section 24 of the Nigerian constitution which mandates citizens to render assistance to law enforcement agencies in the performance of their duties.

He said “A lot of people always want to blame the media for so many things, that the media has been silent or that the media has been bought but they ought to understand that media only works with the information at their disposal.

“This is laughable because we in the media only work with the information you give us. That is why it is very important to always speak out.”

Speaking as a resource person on Whistleblowing and International Best Practices, Abdulaziz urged journalists to always ensure their report was in the best interest of the public.

In her presentation on Reporting Whistleblowing and Safety of Whistleblowers: The Role of Journalists, the Deputy Editor, Blueprint Newspaper, Chizoba Ogbeche, advised the journalists to imbibe the culture of cross checking their facts while dealing with whistle-blowers as some of them could mischievously give out false information that may invariably land journalists in trouble.

According to her, journalists are whistleblowers generally but they often depend on other whistleblowers.

She said journalists should know that while protecting their sources, they should also ensure to protect themselves by having an agreement with their sources on confidentiality.

On her part, the Programme Manager, PRIMORG, Adaobi Obiabunmuo, said the journalists could reach out to Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on behalf of the whistleblowers, who are facing reprisals, since they could not provide legal services.