Monday, 28 December 2009

Nigeria: Sahara Reporters comes of age

A picture to the world

I am no doubt utterly confused with the news of the failed terrorist attack on the Northwest airlines flight 253 [1] from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day.

Invariably, rather than offer a direct comment, I have decidedly combed the newswires and tried to keep abreast of the news, commentary, views and opinions on this matter.

To first deal with the almost trivial but particularly seminal is the fact that the grainy photo of the culprit, a 23 year old known as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab which appears on the CNN news stories and its news site on CNN.com [2] is from the SaharaReporters.com website [3], that information appears boldly when seen.

The coming of age

It is the coming of age of the guerilla news agency that has become the source of factual or sometimes sensational exposés that local news agencies would not dare to print; as I had written sometime ago [4], the lack of press freedom and the harassment of news outlets in Nigeria, calls for an organ like the vibrantly aggressive SaharaReporters.com.

It goes without saying that the publishers are on the Nigerian security agency watchlists and as other publishers of similar organs have been seized at airports and literally messed around with for months, it must be said that the powers that be would do anything to prevent the truth, half-truth, speculative or lie from gaining any public attention.

Essentially, I have avoided using SaharaReporters.com as my main source of information about Nigeria, sometimes some of the contributors also let their emotions get the better of them and allow sentiment and the subjective to becloud the objective; it is by every means a resourceful agency in the midst of the murky entrails of the present-day Nigeria.

Change should come

It remains the go-to source of information and breaking news about Nigeria that does not suffer the threat of proscription and that now calls for bit of serious housecleaning to polish up their act.

I do not know how the site is funded but the flashing adverts really do have to go, it takes away from the seeming professional look the site, I think would like to portray; they have to develop a better funding structure to keep the site alive for access and traffic as it gains more popularity.

The contributors have to be better vetted, whilst the open forum setup is good, there should be some editorial control in terms of quality of copy, the conveyance of ideas and balance in debate.

Polite comment should thrive

Most importantly, I can never find myself commenting on that site, some of the comments are laced with contemptible vitriol, unwarranted abuse and exchanges that are atrocious to say the least – a comment policy needs to be put in place, people should not be able to vent in such a way that it makes the comments unreadable – some standard needs to be established.

Now, Nigerians can get quite into it with their comments, but such a site now commanding an international profile needs to help in promoting Nigerians as being able to engage in discourse and debate without the need for derogation – people should be able to express themselves forcefully, politely and respectfully, it should not be too much to ask for – maybe a marketplace comment section can be created to accept those views, but there should be a separation between reasoned comments or dialogue and the mob at their most frenzied cantankerousness.

Once again, all kudos to Sahara Reporters [3] for their sterling work on Nigerian issues, reluctantly but quite necessarily.

Sources

[1] The latest on Northwest flight 253 | The Economist

[2] Sources: Terror suspect is son of bank executive, attended college - CNN.com

[3] SR Headlines

[4] Nigeria: Ribadu and kids get bundled out of NIPSS graduation [akin.blog-city.com]

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