By Mary Agidi
Embellished news reports with tribal, ethnic or religious undertones have been observed as one of the purveyors of conflicts in Nigeria.
This observation emerged at the just concluded two days capacity building training for online journalists and bloggers by the International Press Centre, IPC, on conflict sensitive reporting of election processes in Abeokuta and Abuja between September 18-21 respectively.
In a communique issued at the end of the programme which was signed by the IPC director, Mr Lanre Arogundade, it was observed that photo-shopped photographs and disturbing videos with fabricated local narratives promoted through online sources can trigger tension, political crisis and even communal conflict in sensitive communities.
According to the communique, it was further observed that hate speech is among the universal inflammatory speeches like dangerous and offensive speeches, criminalises people, demeans and puts them in a bad light.
It reads : ” Hate speech leads to violence due to explicit, implied, contextual or historical ‘call to action’ imbedded therein. Therefore hate speech is a hallmark of dangerous speech.
“Online journalists and bloggers are always on the edge to be the first to ‘break the news’ which inadvertently is lowering the bar of factual and professional reporting.
The training, which was supported by the European Union (EU) under Component 4b: Support to the media of the EU Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) project,however recommended that online journalists and bloggers should embrace responsible journalism by looking out for accurate and factual dissemination of news.
In view of the forthcoming 2019 and subsequent elections, IPC advised that journalists should avoid sensational and misleading headlines in their reports but rather stick to professional and credible reporting, especially online.
They were further enjoined to verify news from all sides before publication in order for their medium not to be tagged a medium of fake news.
“Online journalists/ bloggers should endeavour to cross check the source of their contents and should avoid words that could trigger crisis or conflict in their reportage; they must be promoters of change and always guide against hate speech in their reporting in order not to raise political tension.
“Online Journalist/Bloggers should be at the vanguard of mitigating hate speech by appreciating the cultural differences (in Nigeria) and promoting common good and unity”, IPC advises.