2019 elections: IPC trains online journalists on fair, objective reporting
.Calls for language sensitivity, professionalism in conflict reporting
By Udeme Clement
Online journalists and bloggers have been advised to ensure fairness and objectivity in reporting the 2019 elections in Nigeria, in order to give the public credible information.
This formed part of the communiqué issued at the end of a two-day workshop, organised by International Press Centre, IPC, for online journalists, as well as bloggers.
The training, which took place in Ogun State and Abuja, focused on conflict sensitive reporting online, ahead of the 2019 general elections. Also, the thrust of the workshop was to build capacity of the concerned online journalists/bloggers in using online media for fair, balanced, language sensitive and conflict sensitive reporting of the elections, as well as mitigating hate speech in online environment.
The workshop, supported by the European Union, EU, under Component 4b: Support to the media of the EU Support for Democratic Governance in Nigeria, EU-SDGN, attracted 71 online journalists/bloggers. 36 participants came for Abeokuta workshop from the six South/West States, while the Abuja workshop attracted 35 participants from the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, covering North-East, North-Central, South-East and South-South regions of Nigeria.
Moreso, the workshop in Abeokuta received goodwill remarks from Comrade Wole Shokunbi, Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Ogun State and Dr. Niran Malaolu, former Ogun State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, and the founding Chief Executive Officer, CEO, Rock city FM, even as it featured six main presentations.
Accordingly, the presentations were accompanied by interactive sessions on questions, answers and comments on emerging issues, real life scenarios as well as practical steps to managing conflict situations in online reporting, moderated by the workshop facilitator/resource persons.
The first day had four presentations. The First lecture, ‘Understanding conflict, its nature and character was delivered by Dr. Dan Jibo, Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ibadan. The Second presentation, ‘Understanding communication challenges in the age of conflict, hate speech and fake news’ was delivered by Professor Nosa Owens-Ibie, Dean, College of Social and Management Sciences (COSOMAS), Caleb University, Imota-Nigeria.
The Third paper on, ‘Contemporary conflicts in Nigeria and possible impact on media coverage of 2019 elections: the pitfalls to avoid in Online Reporting’ was anchored by Dr. Dan Jibo. The fourth Presentation, ‘Social Media and Elections: Knowing and Dealing with the Challenges’ was handled by Dr. Qasim Akinreti, Assistant News Editor, Voice of Nigeria (VON), also Chairman, Lagos NUJ.
There were two presentations on the second, namely, ‘Giving practical effect to conflict sensitive reporting online’ by Dr. Qasim Akinreti and ‘Sticking to ethics and professionalism in online reporting’ by Professor Nosa Owens-Ibie. A special session, ‘Introduction to anti-hoax platforms’ was handled by Mr. Jamiun Folarin, Dept of Mass Communication, Crescent University, Abeokuta.
However, six papers were also delivered in Abuja workshop. The first resource person, Dr. Ruqayyah Yusuf Aliyu of the Department of Information and Media Studies, Bayero University Kano, had two presentations, ‘Understanding Conflict: Its Nature & Character’ and ‘Hate Speech & Fake News: Imperatives of Ethics & Professionalism in Online Reporting in Nigeria’.
The second resource person, Dr. Y.Z Yau, Executive Director, CITAD presented two papers on ‘Contemporary Conflicts in Nigeria and Possible Impact on Media Coverage of 2019 Elections’ and ‘Monitoring of Hate Speech Online: Observations, Lessons and Recommendations from Outcomes’.
The third resource person, Mr. Musikilu Mojeed, Editor-In-Chief, Premium Times spoke on ‘Social Media & Elections: Giving Practical Effect to Conflict Sensitive Reporting Online‘ and ‘News gathering & Newsroom Gate keeping in Era of Hate Speech: Tips on Pitfalls to Avoid‘.
The Workshop identified the following:
* Embellished’ news reports with tribal, ethnic or religious undertones are often the purveyor of conflicts in Nigeria.
*There are growing concerns about the use of social media and online mediums for the dissemination of fake news and hate speeches.
*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.
*Conflict is a natural occurrence and inevitable; mainly orchestrated by perceived threats.
*Hate Speech is among the universal inflammatory speeches like dangerous and offensive speeches.
* Hate speech criminalises people, demeans and puts them in bad light.
* Hate Speech is not just about spoken or published words; it can come in the form of music, graphics or inscription on clothes.
*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/ 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.
* Unprofessional reporting online is casting aspersion on the credibility of media professionals working in the online environment.
In view of the forthcoming 2019 and subsequent elections, the following recommendations were made to serve as a guideline to online journalists/bloggers reporting governance and electoral matters.
*Online Journalists/Bloggers reporting governance and electoral matters should restrict themselves to the Ethical Framework & Stipulated Guidelines, which would differentiate them from the regular trend of citizenship journalism.
*Online Journalists/Bloggers reporting governance and electoral matters should equip themselves with information and knowledge on conflicts, especially its context, its underlining causes, its effects, preventive and corrective measures.
*Online Journalists/ Bloggers should profile peace makers and subdue voices of purveyors of intolerance and cheerleaders of hate, xenophobic and religious extremists. *Online Journalists/Bloggers reporting governance and electoral matters should exhibit high sense of professionalism in reporting the elections, more so as good journalism requires the provision of accurate and reliable information to citizens. *Online journalists/ bloggers should be careful about reports and stories that could trigger killings and destruction. Online journalists/ bloggers should pay more attention to what they publish online because of the attendant implications for peaceful co-existence and social cohesion.
*Online journalists/ bloggers should note that their negligence in applying ethical considerations to reports online can cause unnecessary violence or even deaths of people.
*Online Journalists/Bloggers should be at the vanguard of mitigating hate speech by appreciating the cultural differences in Nigeria, promoting common good and unity.