Stakeholders have expressed concern over resurgence of Fake News in the political space warning that the menace could put Nigeria and indeed West Africa in serious crisis if not checked .
This was the focal point at the two-day training organised by the Centre for Democracy & Development,(CDD)in conjunction with the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The capacity building with the theme : Conflict-Sensitive Reporting .2023 General Elections And Countering Fake News ,which brought journalists and members of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the SouthWest is holding at Suru Express Hotel, Ikeja Lagos.The programme is supported by the Foreign Commonwealth Development Office.
In his opening remarks, the CDD Director,Idayat Hassan decried the dangerous trend occasioned by the influence of fake news cautioning the Conventional Media against fallen for the bait.
Represehted by Austin Aigbe ,the CDD Director sought greater collaboration with the media and CSOs to combat the menace .
As media practitioners, people want to hear you speak because they you more than the government and that is the more reason you must be careful about the genuineness of the content we are dishing out to the public. Part of this session is to going to address stories that can led to conflicts. And the CDD is here to fact-check any controversial stories .
I aware the population of West Africa is about 400million and that of Nigeria is about 200million .By implication, Nigeria is half the population of West Africa. So any crisis in Nigeria may have a spiral effect on the West Africa sub region.
Presenting his Keynote Address the President, NUJ Comrade Chris Iziguzo entitled : “Role of the Media in the conduct of Peaceful Elections “said the NUJ is committed to improving the ethical standard of news reportage during elections.
“We are keen in ensuring that Nigerian Journalists undertake their professional duties within the ambit of the Electoral Law and other regulations. Professionally, we desire to improve the news judgment of the journalist as it affects elections and elections related issues.” Iziguzo said .
He said the media have a vital role to play in nation building, by being active partners in the implementation of the development processes.
The Media, according to him ,are veritable instruments and are therefore central to any input-output functions of any political system. However, there may be constraints of the media in this regard which among others include lack of conducive working environment, mass poverty, poor remuneration and lack of adequate training.
” It should be noted that the emergence of our country as a democracy in 1999 was a product of collective efforts of Nigerians as represented by the mass media and civil society. Despite its challenges, democracy has provided Nigerians with space to freely discuss their affairs. Every single day of democratic governance in Nigeria helps to further deepen democratic values in the country.
“Our role as journalists is to facilitate easy access to information that will enhance participation in governance and ultimately enable citizens make informed choices during elections.
” We are conscious of our professional responsibility to gather, collate, process and disseminate news. Through this role, we act as gate keepers who determine which news material to disseminate especially against the background of the myriads of available news material.
Using the means of new technology to reach a mass audience, the journalist influences opinions, builds perceptions and mediates among contending social and political forces. We act as mirror for the society to view itself while also influencing social realities.
” Clearly, while we have contributed to the process of democratic sustainability in Nigeria in the past 23 years or thereabout, we are also interested in its future. Therefore the 2023/general election is important to all journalists especially because it will further stabilise our democracy and strengthen the democratic culture in Nigerian.
Speaking further the NUJ President said “Media Professionals should be actively involved in the Pre-voting stage during which electoral frameworks may be developed or refined and boundaries may be defined to ascertain voter eligibility. During this phase, voter and civic education, Voter registration, party nominations, and electoral campaigns also take place.
” The task of the media, especially national media outlets, is not and should not be to function as a mouthpiece for any government body or particular candidate. Its basic role is to enlighten and educate the public and act as a neutral, objective platform for the free debate of all points of view. (“Media and Parliamentary Elections in Egypt: Evaluation of Media Performance in the Parliamentary Elections” Human Rights Movement Issues 26, (Cairo, Egypt: Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, 2011): 27)
“Journalists in Nigeria should work towards the advancement of the right of freedom of expression, access to information, freedom of the press, media independence, conflict transformation and peace building. These are prerequisites for open governance and development, which ultimately serve the public interest.
“In order to properly advance public interests, earn public trust and be watchdogs of the society, the pursuit of truth and public good must be the cornerstone of journalism practice in Nigeria. This makes it obligatory for every journalist to maximally comply with ethical principles and professional standards. It also makes it obligatory for every journalist to be entitled to decent wages, protection from attacks or hazards and conducive working environment” Iziguzo said.