“The experience we have gained here cannot be quantified.”; “I have been enlightened by the program and have learnt how to balance the stories.”; “I am personally glad to have learnt invaluable lessons that have occasioned a paradigm shift in my reporting.” These were some of the opinions expressed by participants at a media roundtable on drugs and related organized crime in Nigeria.
Twenty-one crime reporters and 10 staff of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) had gathered in Abeokuta on 10 and 11 March, 2014, for the roundtable which was facilitated by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United Nations Information Center (UNIC), Lagos, under the European Union funded project “Response to Drugs and Related Organized Crime in Nigeria.”
The roundtable was to strengthen the capacity of crime reporters to provide accurate and balanced reporting of drugs and related organized crime in Nigeria and raise awareness of project activities. It is apparent that the focus of media reporting on drugs and related organized crime in Nigeria has been on the arrest of suspects and the seizure of illicit drugs, with little or no mention of prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation services provided to drug users.
Facilitating one of the sessions, the Senior Public Information Officer for UNIC Lagos, Envera Selimovic harped on the techniques of conducting investigative journalism on drugs and organized crimes especially how to obtain information from victims and perpetrators without identity compromise. The organisers and the participants both acknowledged that her presentation was inspiring and it changed the perspective of the training.
During the program, the journalists visited the Amechi Anumonye Drug Abuse Treatment, Education and Research (DATER) Unit at the Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Aro, Abeokuta, where they received a presentation on the treatment and rehabilitation services provided to drug users by the unit. They also were taken on a guided tour of the unit to help them understand how services are provided.
Feedback from the journalists demonstrated that the roundtable has helped equip them to better report drugs and related organized crime issues. Many of them, in fact, resolved to expand their scope of reporting to include drug demand reduction as well as treatment and rehabilitation of drug users.
Response to Drugs and Related Organized Crime in Nigeria is a European Union funded project being implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to support Nigeria’s efforts to tackle drug-related challenges using a multi-faceted approach.