Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Friday called on media executives to use their influence toward seeking ways of achieving a consensus on responsible use of social media.
Osinbajo gave the charge at the celebration of: “Life and Times of Departed Media Leaders: An Afternoon of Tributes,” held on Thursday Lagos.
He said: “We are in an age of technology where the dissemination of news had completely been democratised by the media environment, which was once the preserve of state and corporation.
“The very meaning of the term media owner has changed and no longer refers to people with the profile of those who have studied journalism.
“In this era of citizen journalism, everyone now has a voice, whether through blogs, website or online publications among others.
“The democratisation of information, unleashed by the information age, has also introduced related risks with serious implications for economic and social-political stability.”
Osinbajo noted that indigenous and private interests now control means of information dissemination that was once the exclusive prism of corporation and government who we could easily hold accountable.
He said: “These capability is increasingly used in all sorts of malign doings by those who abhor ill intent.
“Fake news is being trafficked on a scale that is capable of warping the perception of reality by huge numbers of people and inducing social conflict.
“I believe that media leaders must use the considerable influence that they have to seek ways of achieving a consensus on the responsible use of social media.”
Osinbajo said Nigeria was not a perfect country and had its own challenges.
He, however, noted that the cure for the country’s imperfection was certainly not in destruction nor a heatless descent into anarchy.
He said: “We all have a share in the much-needed work of rebuilding, redesigning, reforming and healing our nation.
“Creating a commonality of purpose in a culturally diverse society is challenging the world over.
“However, nation-building is not the sole preserve of politicians and government.
“In fact, it is just as much a task for civil society, of which the media is an important member.”
Osinbajo said the relationship between the media and the government was part of the natural creative tension that must exist between institutions arising from different mandates.
He said: “However, those of us who govern must do so with the understanding that power is a public trust and it is your calling as journalists to invigilate us and hold us accountable.
“I urge you to do so relentlessly, fairly and unapologetically because when we are most true to our respective callings, our democracy is perfect.”
The vice president pointed out that “what should occupy our minds today is whether we are building up our country or whether we are intent on tearing it down”.
He said” “That is a question that we must ask ourselves in every sphere of human endeavour because there is really only one divide at this point.
“The divide is simply the line between those who are committed to constructive action and those who are pursuing a destructive cause.”
Osinbajo said that the giants that were celebrated at the Afternoon of Tributes underscored the fact that journalism operates in the social context and must be neutral.
He said: “This same commitment is incumbent on all social practitioners.
“Media practitioners have the responsibility to exercise discernment with the deployment of their platforms.
“We must ask ourselves whether we are empowering and amplifying the most insensitive voices in our mist while marginalising the voices of reasoning.”
The vice president said everyone had a stake in advancing the cause of justice, equity and progress.
Osinbajo added: “The media leaders, in whose names and memories we have gathered today are giants because they understood the struggles of their times and then embraced their roles in them.
“In so doing, they wrote their names in bold and remain a reference point for succeeding generations.
“We too must embrace all of those quests that are before us to make common cause of progressive nation-builders across all divides to take ownership of our country and build a sustainable future for our children.”
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that tributes day was in honour of Alhaji Lateef Jakande, former governor of Lagos State, pioneer President, Nigeria Guild of Editor, Nigerian Proprietors Association of Nigeria and former Treasurer of the Nigeria Union of Journalists; Malam Wada Maida, past President, NGE, former Editor-in-Chief and Chairman, NAN board; and Malam Ismaila Isa, Life Patron, NPAN.
Also celebrated were Bisi Lawrence, former General Manager, Lagos Broadcasting Corporation; Gbolabo Ogunsanwo, former Publisher, New Nation, former Editor, Sunday Times; and Sam Nda-Isaiah, former Publisher of Leadership Newspaper.
The rest were Eddie Aderinokun, former Editor, Daily Express; Ben Egbuna, former Director-General, FRCN; and Tony Momoh, former Minister of Information and Culture.