The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has appealed to Nigerian journalists to avoid fake news during the forthcoming general election.
Mohammed, who was represented by the Managing Director, News Agency of Nigeria, Bayo Onanuga, made the appeal at a summit in commemoration of the International Day to end Impunity for crimes Against Journalists, on Thursday in Abuja.
The minister urged journalists to maintain the dignity of the profession by not reporting fake news and hate speeches.
He said: “Fake news is one of the greatest threat to democracy and it is made up stuff and masterfully manipulated to look as credible journalistic reports.
“Fake news is easily spread online to a large audience willingly to create friction and spread false word.”
He said that journalist should not decide for voters, saying that they should provide them with the truth to guide electorate in making informed decisions.
Speaking on how to end impunity for crime against journalists, the minister said that journalist should always observe from a distance during the forthcoming general elections.
The minister said that journalists should always defend the profession and themselves with the truth.
In his keynote address, the former Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase, said that all media outlets should have department to monitor and analyse conflicts zones across the nation.
Arase said that journalism should be practiced with responsibility, hence they should be mindful of the ethics of the profession at all times.
The former I-G identified low remuneration of journalists as a major challenge impeding the ethical practice of the profession, adding that most journalists have to financially fend for themselves, without payment from media organisations.
He advised journalists to always move in groups, liaise with security agencies to ensure their safety.
He said: “By now, as the 2019 general elections approaches, journalists should possess political intelligence skills, and identify volatile areas, especially in rural areas.
“Media organisations should provide insurance covers to indemnify journalist in the event of injuries, assaults or death.”
The former police boss assured that maintaining ethics, fairness and balance would minimise friction and attack on journalists in coverage of conflict and non-conflict situation, including elections.
According to him, the agenda setting power of the press should not be abused; hence we should be true professionals, always by remaining non-partisan, realising that partisanship can jeopardise our safety.
The Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, condemned the murder of 1,010 journalists and media professionals since 2006, adding that none out of such cases have been charged to court.
Azoulay said: “We must urgently address the specific threats which face women journalists and ultimately extend to the journalistic profession as a whole.
“The fight against impunity is inseparable from the defence of fundamental freedoms such as freedom of expression, freedom of the press and access to information.”
In her remarks, Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, Special Adviser to the President on Sustainable Development Goals, said that journalists should embark on more investigative reporting.
She said: “There is need for more investigative journalism without bias.
“A Guaranteed freedom of press is imperative to the anti-corruption fight of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.”
Earlier, the president of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Chris Isiguzo, said that there was a general belief about the media failing in serving the public interest, and requirement of democracy.
Isiguzo said: “Because of economic pressure and what some have called back-pack journalism, editorial oversight and leadership in the newsroom have declined, and in many, the sub desk has been eliminated; no more fact checking.
“It is like anything can go as far as it will bring money and probably not libelous.
“The news gate has become more porous than never, thereby creating platform for propagandists, merchants of hate speech and fake news.”
Isiguzo said that there was a need for caution and also urgent need to remedy the ugly situation towards ensuring safety of journalists.
NAN reports that the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists is a UN-recognised day observed annually on November 2.
The day was to draw attention to the low global conviction rate for violent crimes against journalists and media workers, estimated at only one in every ten cases.