Worried by the increasing rate of fake news, and other abuses perpetrated through online publications and their consequences, especially as the 2019 general elections draw close, participants at a just-concluded workshop organized by the International Press Center, IPC, have suggested harmless ways by which bloggers and online journalists can effectively report governance and electoral matters.
The Center came up with the recommendations at the end of a two-day workshop recently held in Abeokuta, Ogun State for online journalists/blogger on conflict and sensitive reporting online, ahead of the 2019 general elections.
According to Lanre Arogundade, director, IPC, the thrust of the workshop was to build the capacity of the concerned online journalists/bloggers in using online media for fair, balanced, language sensitive and conflict sensitive reporting of the elections.
“Overall, the workshop focused on building the capacity of participants on professional and conflict sensitive reporting of the electoral processes as well as mitigating hate speech in an online environment,” he said.
In a communiqué signed by Arogundade, participants at the workshop recommended that online journalists and bloggers reporting governance and electoral matters should restrict themselves to the ethical framework and stipulated guidelines which would differentiate them from the regular trend of citizenship journalism. They are also expected to equip themselves with information and knowledge on conflicts especially its context, its underlining causes, its effects and preventive and corrective measures.
It was also recommended that these set of journalists be careful about reports and stories that could trigger killings and destruction and also stick to ethical standards by making sure that contents are problem-solving; promote peaceful co-existence and social cohesion.
The recommendations dwell heavily on responsible journalisms which requires ensuring accuracy and factuality, avoiding sensational and misleading headlines, words that could trigger crisis, as well as verifying from all sides before publications “in order for their medium not be tagged a medium of fake news.”
“Online journalists and bloggers should profile peacemakers and subdue voices of purveyors of intolerance and cheerleaders of hate, xenophobic and religious extremists; reporting governance and electoral matters should exhibit high sense of professionalism in reporting the elections more so as good journalism requires the provision of accurate and reliable information to citizens.
“They should note that their negligence in applying ethical considerations to reports online, can cause unnecessary violence or even deaths of people; they must be promoters of change and always guide against hate speech in their reporting in order not to raise political tension.
The participants also agreed that responsible online journalists or bloggers should be at the vanguard of mitigating hate speech by appreciating the cultural differences (in Nigeria) and promoting common good and unity.
The workshop drew over 71 online journalists and bloggers among other participants, among whom were Wole Shokunbi, chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ Ogun State and Niran Malaolu, former Ogun State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, and the founding MD/CEO of Rock City FM, Abeokuta, Ogun State.