IPC cautions online journalists, bloggers on hate speeches, fake news


Ogochukwu Anioke in Abakaliki reports that as the 2019 general election draws near, the International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos has expressed worry that the rise in fake news, unprofessional reporting and hate speech in the social media space may mar the smooth conduct of the polls.
To nip the problem in the bud, the organization recently organized a workshop Conflict Sensitive Reporting for online Journalists and bloggers across the country.
With support from the European Union-Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) project, the second part of the workshop held at the Grand Pela Hotels, Abuja for practitioners from the North, South East and South-South regions of the country.
Speaking during the opening ceremony of the two-day training, the president of IPC Mr. Lanre Arogundade, said the training became necessary because of  some evidence that hate speech actually flourishes in the online environment.
Arogundade who was represented by the program manager Stella Nwofia, pointed out that the online environment now occupies a very central place in media operations, as it now  offers a converging point for all the traditional and conventional media.
He noted that with the 2019 general elections approaching, it became necessary to inundate participants on the rules of engagement with regards to elections reporting and conflicts therein.
The Director drew the attention of the participants to section four (4) of the Nigerian Media Code of Election Report (revised edition 2018) where ‘Hate Speech’ was singled out as a menace in online reporting and elections conflicts.
Mr. Arogundade, said Nigeria has a large population of internet users, and as a result there is a rapid increase in the number of journalists offering to practise online to reach this ‘Internet or online population’.
He. however, noted that the activities of the practitioners should help checkmate the menace of hate speech and conflicts in the country.
He said :“the online now covers Radio, Television and the Print – such that we now speak of media convergence. The online media now offers a broad spectrum of information and dissemination as well as access to the media by millions if not billions of Internet users be they as individuals or groups”.
“With the large population of internet users in Nigeria, there is a rapid increase in the number of journalists offering to practice online to reach this ‘Internet or Online population’.
“What all this means is that we simply cannot ignore what goes on Online in the name of journalism especially against the background of growing perception that online media and social media platforms are the major harbingers of hate speech and stokers of inciting flames.
“it is feared that in the realm of politics, violent conflict during elections could occur if online journalism practitioners and bloggers refuse to embrace conflict sensitive principles.
“The emerging consensus therefore is that online journalists and bloggers need 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.
He urged the 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”.
He commended the European Union for its support that made the training possible through Component 4b: Support to the Media of the European Union Support for Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) project.
“In the above regard, it is expected that this training will help participants to understand and imbibe the principles of fairness, diversity and objectivity in reporting the electoral process and the elections”.
He said that the Centre expects the online media practitioners to use their platforms for fair, balanced report, language sensitive and conflict sensitive reporting of the elections.
Leading a session on ‘Social Media & Elections: Giving Practical Effect to Conflict Sensitive Reporting Online’, the Editor-In-Chief, Premium Times, Abuja, Mr. Musikilu Mojeed, advocated for fair and balanced news reporting by the practitioners.
He also cautioned against hate speech and conflict-inducing headlines.
“Therefore, the need to be cautious has risen, especially when we cast headlines; as conflict can be triggered by ambiguity in communication intended by the journalist involved.
“Thus, when issues arise in the society, journalists can provide parties with the information that convoke wise decisions in managing and resolving conflicts. Always remember that your ‘business’ thrives only when Nigeria is peaceful,”
He went further to enumerate how online journalists can make a difference in the profession.
The Editor-in-Chief of Premium Times, further urged the participants to “Be proactive and careful with translation (intended meaning or language) and to avoid  the use of offensive and graphic images or videos”
In her presentation on ‘Understanding Conflict, its Nature and Character’, Dr. Ruqayyah Yusuf Aliyu of the Department of Information and Media Studies, Bayero University, Kano State, described conflicts as a natural and inevitable occurrence orchestrated by perceived threats while mutual respects is the antidote.
She classified conflicts into seven; namely: intrapersonal, inter-personal, Intra-group, party factions, Inter-group, intra-society and international conflicts.

Participants at the International Press Center workshop for Online Media Practitioners and Bloggers

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