Media stakeholders brainstorm on fake news, hate speech

Aisha John-Mark, Abuja

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Technocrats in the media industry have converged to brainstorm in providing a lasting solution to eradicate the menace of fake news and hate speech.

The event tagged Fake News and Hate speech was hosted by the National Open University of Nigeria and organised by the Olusegun Obasanjo Centre for African Studies.

Worried by the increasing attention given to the information filtering out from the social media through orchestrated information to confuse the public and play tricks on the mind of Nigerians, stakeholders probed into the dangers of fake news which negates the concept of objectivity and truth.

Discussants all found a common ground by demanding for good and responsible leadership with good governance from the Nigerian government saying it is the only way to eradicate fake News and hate speech.

The lead discussant, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah said that both fake news and hate speech have always been in existence, he encouraged citizens to measure themselves on the bank of justice which he said is bankrupt in most societies of the world.

According to him,“there is a huge information deficit from government and that is what has made fake news thrive ,what we call hate speech has always been with us in all societies, We must have a country that is believable to be able to eradicate hate speech.”

“For me in dealing with hate speech we must make sure that we do not deny ourselves our constitutional rights, the condition for hate speech are all created by combination of factors such as poverty and lack of education.

“In my own view ,if we have a country that we believe ,whatever form of speech thrown at us can bounce off, the country is in a dangerous precedent, no country multi-dimensional, cultural can be where we are today,” Bishop Kukah said.

He charged the media to control contents of information been spread to the society.

The keynote speaker, Mr Ray Ekpu ,said fake news and hate speech have become parts of deliberate instruments of warfare.

“The nexus between hate speech and fake news is that they have common drivers and these are politics, religion and ethnicity.”

He suggested that the conversation on social media be tagged citizens communication or citizens conversation and not citizens journalism.

Another discussant, Professor Chidi Odinkalu, pointed that there are no consequences for fake news and hate speech in the nation.

Prof Odinkalu lamented that citizens are deliberately subjected to poverty and what he described as suppressing of the population by denying people access to education.

According to Prof Odinkalu, “failure of the government to invest in population is weaponising ignorance.”

A foremost media practitioner and a Politician, Senator Chris Anyawu, also a discussant, disagreed totally that fake news is not real and that it is about deception in communication.

“Fake news is flaky, unreal and it is fraud masked as real, the dis-information of fake news plays tricks on the minds of the people, already one third of the world’s population is on facebook and there are artificial intelligence everywhere hence there is need to educate the people,” Senator Anyawu said.

The President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Funke Egbemode also a discussant ,said fake news is never news but rumors and misinformation.

She clarifies that fake news has nothing to do with journalism.

According to her, ”I disagree totally with anyone parading him or herself a citizen journalist ,there are no citizen doctors nor citizen Engineers so there can never be citizen journalists, if you want to join us in the profession go and get trained,” Egbemode said.

Dr Reuben Abati, another foremost journalist acknowledged that social media have adverse effects on the society but that it is a reality that has become part of the society.

According to him, “in social media yes it may have adverse effect, but the truth of the matter is that it is a very strong force that you cannot ignore that you cannot deny ,those who used to be audience have now become part of the trade of gathering information, processing information and disseminating and because they are relying heavily on technology.

“The velocity of news that is provided by citizen journalists operating online, the rate at which it travels is not something that we can ignore,” Dr Abati said.

As predicted that there would be death of newspapers by 2023 , Dr Abati said, “I don’t know if that will happen maybe the form of the newspaper will change or mutilate into something else particularly now that we are in the age of convergence, many of these people involve in citizen journalists they believe that the traditional media does not provide the kind of information that the society needs, so they provide alternative facts, they provide information that the traditional media will not necessarily want to carry.

“We’ve seen instances where traditional media take news from online reporters and surprisingly they have adopted new labels such as digital media developers.

“The emergence of these people is a reality that we may worry about but we must realise that it has positive sides,”Dr Abati said.

Obadiah Mailafiya said some fake news and hate news can be healthy in the context of marginalisation and denial of rights.

According to him, “our biggest problems are bigger than the issues of fake news and hate speech.”