The Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media, and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu has come out to say that the media should be held accountable for misinformation triggering problems for the country, our economy, and individuals.
He revealed this in a paper presentation entitled, “Media and Democracy: Challenges of Journalism”, at the 2020 Annual Lecture of the Abuja Branch of the Barewa Old Boys Association, in Abuja on Saturday.
According to him, any attempt to hold the media or punish erring publication in Nigeria should not be seen as an attack on journalism and press freedom.
He added that even if social media is a powerful platform, currently, it is like a rogue elephant that seems out of control in Nigeria.
His words, ”The social media is like a rogue elephant that seems out of control. But despite this notorious image, social media are powerful platforms.
”They enable politicians and activists to engage directly with people. Besides, groups that are marginalised by the traditional media use the social media to get their voices heard.”
”At the recent public hearing by the National Assembly on the draft, private member’s bill on social media, more than 100 activist groups presented a demand that there should be no law.
”This is in spite of a public opinion survey conducted by NOIPolls revealing that new media (social media, blogs, etc.) is a major breeding ground for fake news in the country as indicated by 67 per cent of Nigerians.
”Nigerian journalists have learnt to exploit international sympathy in such situations, crying media harassment and death of press freedom, instead of owning up to their errors of judgment and facing punishment from the judiciary.
”There is hardly a week without my getting a call from Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) asking some of the silliest questions about a Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in a faraway local government asking to see a journalist over a published report.
”Or questions about a former journalist, a presidential candidate in his conduct as a politician making all sorts of suggestions that he cannot be questioned by the law because he practised as a journalist in the past.
”Long story short, the difficulty of the government in a democracy like Nigeria is how to strike a balance between press freedom, and a sometimes corrupt and dangerously reckless media.”
”Freedom, like power, is, however, subject to abuse. For the media to contribute to the success of democracy, they must inform the people accurately.
”They must reflect on the diversity of society while playing the role of information dissemination. Media practitioners shouldn’t be religious and ethnic crusaders, supporting one side against another, thereby escalating tensions and conflicts in society.
”The pursuit of political agenda can fundamentally compromise the role of the media in deepening democracy.”