By Mary Agidi
As the 2019 general elections draw nearer, the International Press Centre,IPC Lagos has expressed readiness to curtail spread of fake news and hate speech in Nigerian society by media practitioners especially online media and bloggers.
To this end, IPC , through the European Union support (EU) under Component 4b: Support to the Media of the European Union Support for Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) project organised a two- day workshop for 60 online journalists and bloggers between September 18-21 2018.
The first batch of the workshop with the theme, “Conflict sensitive reporting of election process online” was held in Abeokuta the Ogun State capital with 30 participants from the South West geo-political zone.
The IPC director, Mr Lanre Arogundade in his opening remarks stressed the need for online journalists and bloggers to strive to do better so they could be part of efforts that seek to remove hate narratives from political communication as a way of making the electoral environment healthier.
According to him, the training aimed to help participants to understand and imbibe the principles of fairness, diversity and objectivity in reporting the electoral process and the elections.
“Our expectation is that the online media would be used as a platform for fair, balanced, language sensitive and conflict sensitive reporting of the elections.
“This training is deemed necessary because the online environment now occupies a very central place in media operation, there is also some evidence that hate speech actually flourishes in the online environment and is believed that this is contributing to the shrinking of the political space for the inclusive participation of women and vulnerable groups in the electoral process and elections, as well as the political and governance structure in Nigeria”, he noted.
Speaking on “Sticking to ethics and professionalism in online reporting”, Professor Nosa Owens-Ibie, Dean, College of Social and Management Sciences Caleb University, Imota-Nigeria charged journalists to imbibe the principles of accuracy, balance, objectivity, and transparency in their reportage.
He emphasised the need for journalists to say No to gratification, discrimination, plagiarism, glamorisation of violence, and protect public interest and minors.
Speaking on “Conflict sensitive reporting online: knowing and addressing its challenges “, the Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Lagos council, Dr. Qasim Akinreti charged online journalists and bloggers to be consistent and provide high quality content.
Akinreti who doubles as the Assistant News Editor Voice of Nigeria, VON urged journalists to be sensitive while reporting conflicting issues rather than escalating conflict by being sentimental or biased and desist from allowing their personal opinion dominate their reportage.
Dr. Nathaniel Danjibo of the Institute of Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ibadan while speaking on “Conflict and Journalism” noted that society rely on the information they get from journalists to react upon, hence the need for journalists to be sensitive while reporting conflicting issues.
He however described conflict sensitive journalism as the practice of writing news stories about a conflict in a way that does not worsen the situation by avoiding inflammatory language and rather seek how it can be resolved.