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Avoid using your power to incite violence, stakeholders urge journalists

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Stakeholders in the media industry have urged journalists to verify the information before going to the press, noting that fake news could lead to loss of lives and property.

While describing fake news as one of the biggest challenges confronting Nigeria, they urged journalists to be wary of the information they circulate to the public.

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They spoke at a one-day workshop, themed, ‘Peace Building and Promotion of Religious Tolerance,’ organised by the Catholic and Muslim media practitioners in Nigeria.

At the workshop, acting Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, warned journalists to avoid the temptation of inciting the public against the nation, which according to him, is against social harmony.

In his lecture titled, ‘Media as a tool for social change, cohesion, and development,’ Idachaba said the media should be seen as a unifier for national development.

Alluding to fake news shared during the #ENDSARS protests, Idachaba regretted that journalists contributed to the menace which led to the destruction of lives and property.

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He said: “Nigeria media has been a tool for social and political development. It was used for political advocacy and the fight against colonialism. But contemporary, I am yet to identify the ideal focus of the Nigerian media. During the #EndSARS protests, there were a lot of fake news, pictures and videos in circulation and our media helped to promote and reinforce false narrative. As a journalist, you must do your fact check. The return to ethics therefore is the key responsibility of the Nigerian media.”

Former Editor-in-Chief, News Agency of Nigeria, Ali Hakeem, lamented that the nation’s value system over the years has been heavily compromised.

According to him, national cohesion and stability could be achieved with vibrant and unbiased media, urging journalists to be circumspect about what they publish.

The executive secretary, Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC), Rev. Yakubu Pam, regretted the negative effects of the social and mainstream media in hindering national development.

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While lamenting that religion had been misused for self-aggrandisement in the past few years in Nigeria, Pam called on media practitioners to eschew bias and put national interests above personal ones.

“As media practitioners, let’s move to a stage where we can protect the country. We should project faith without destroying the country. Rivalry in some cases has been the major issue we have in the two religions. We should have the interest of our country at heart because if Nigeria does not exist today, our churches and mosques also won’t be here,” he stated.

Former Editor, Media Trust Nigeria Limited, Aisha Yusuf, noted that to be taken more seriously in society, journalists must shun ethnic and primordial sentiments in news coverage and reportage.

“We should inculcate the act of being responsible journalists. It should not matter whether the people we are reporting are of different ethnic groups, what should be our focus is humanity. Let’s all lives matter to all such that we practice journalism to safeguard lives and properties.”

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A representative of the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Dayo Oladeji, urged journalists to use the power of the press to search for the truth and give voice to the voiceless, insisting journalism is an important tool to counter hatred and fake news.

According to him, false news, including half-reported stories cannot only misrepresent the truth but also can cause damage to the entire nation.

National Director Communications, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Mike Umoh, sought for the positive use of social media, insisting that its negative usage may lead to disunity and crisis.

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