Halt Hate Speech, Fake News, Buhari Tasks Journalists


 • Obaigbena advocates robust journalism to tackle security, immigration challenges

By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja   

President Muhammadu Buhari Thursday in Abuja, tasked media executives to deploy good journalism as the antidote to prevalent hate speech and fake news in the society.

Buhari threw this challenge to journalists while delivering a keynote address at the opening of the International Press Institute (IPI) World Congress at the Conference Centre of the Presidential Villa, with the theme: ‘Why Good Journalism Matters.’ 

According to the president, in this era of social media, employment of quality media is essential for strong societies, pointing out that good journalism can also help media organisation to survive competition.

He urged the participants to give due consideration to the issues of hate speech and fake news in the conference.

Buhari also spoke about the policies of his administration which he said had made the obtainment of Nigerian visa easy for travellers visiting Nigeria, saying he was glad that participants at the conference were beneficiaries of the ease of doing business policy of the administration. 

He added that in this era of social media explosion technology, the theme of the conference is gratifying.

He said: “The changing media landscape, the explosion of the social media and the rapidly evolving new technology have had a profound impact on media business and media practice. It is satisfying, therefore, that you have chosen an appropriate theme for your conference: Why Good Journalism Matters: Quality Media for Strong Societies.

“In a world where the borderline between hate speech and free speech have become blurred, good journalism matters. In an environment where fake news dwarfs investigative reporting, good journalism matters. For survival in an increasingly competitive field, good journalism matters. Good journalism promotes good governance. I, therefore, urge participants to give depth to the topic in your discussions and conclusions.

“One of the reform initiatives of this administration is the introduction of visa on arrival policy. The policy is designed to aid ease of doing business in Nigeria. I am glad that international delegates to this conference are beneficiaries of this policy.” 

Buhari, who thanked the IPI for granting hosting rights for the conference to Nigeria, said Nigeria had a good history of relationship with IPI since 1963 when the institute established a branch in Lagos.

The president, who said IPI bringing the conference to Nigeria at the time the country was facing the scourge of insurgency, added that it was a reflection of its assessment that Nigeria is safe notwithstanding.

He said: “Our country has a rich history of robust relationship with the IPI; prominent Nigerian journalists and media operators were and continue to be in the leadership of the international body. But perhaps the most significant symbol of this special relationship is the Nigeria Institute of Journalism, Ogba, Ikeja, Lagos established by IPI in 1963. It is our pride that your vision of a professional journalism training institution in Nigeria has taken firm root.

“Your annual congress is holding in Nigeria during a period of global terrorism. Nigeria experiences that scourge through Boko Haram, which has been technically degraded and has no territorial hold anywhere, anymore, in its northeast operational base. The internally displaced persons are gradually returning to their communities in reasonable safety and security.

“It is a reflection of your assessment of Nigeria as a safe country that you gave the country the hosting right for this conference. As you have seen since your arrival, you made a wise and right choice.”

He commended the efforts of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) for putting together the conference, noting that Nigeria has the capacity to do great things.

In his own remark, Chairman of the LOC and President of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, said the community of Nigerian journalists has its own way of resolving challenges confronting journalists and hence, the current incarceration of a journalist in Bayelsa State would be handled accordingly.

According to him, the press in Nigeria fights for the rights of all citizens as he challenged colleagues to engage in robust journalism. He recalled that through robust journalism, immigration crisis facing Nigerians in the United States had been stopped.

He also said with robust journalism, the press can address immigration crisis leading to the death of so many Nigerians on Mediterranean Sea, describing economic factors as the root cause.

Therefore, he said if the government could budget between $3 million and $4 million to meet economic needs of the people, the menace can be tackled accordingly. 

He challenged journalists to lead the way by throwing light into circumstances behind the menace with a view to bringing it to an end.

Obaigbena also spoke on security challenges facing Nigeria, noting that the sizes of Nigeria’s security forces are far too insignificant to tackle the security issues confronting the country in view of Nigeria’s huge population of about 200 million.

He argued that the world was interested in the wellbeing of Nigeria and hence, the need for the conference to consider security matters facing the country.

Obaigbena said: “Let me first say, as a community of journalists, NPO, NUJ, NPAN, l am glad to welcome you. With regards to the journalist incarcerated, we have a way of engaging and resolving our problems. We will solve that too. 

“As journalists in Nigeria, as Uncle Sam says, the press fight for the rights of all Nigerians. We have continued to do that and we have continued to enjoy free press. We also have overzealous security agents. So, should there be any challenges, we ‘ll resolve that too. 

“Having said that, we are here about journalism and why it matters. In the last few days or few weeks, we were witnesses to the overreach of executive authority over immigration in the US and with the role of robust journalism, President Trump was able to reverse such by ensuring that families remain families and never separated.

“Immigration remains one central issue all over the world. In Europe and on the sea of Mediterranean, a lot of Africans are dying. 

“If we all can also report it in a robust way, perhaps we can also reverse this. The issue of course, l believe is economic. With $3 or $4 million dollars here in Nigeria, we can keep them here. That is what we can do, if we report and throw light on the circumstances they face. The issue is purely economic and we can resolve our problems here. So, we just have to do more and throw light on these issues.

“Yes, Nigeria is facing security challenges and we are trying to deal with it in the panel here but we must also remember where it started. After democracy came, we were not concerned about the size of our security forces with regards to our armed forces, with regards to our police. 

“I believe the sizes of our police and armed forces are not enough. Before Boko Haram set sail, we didn’t think of security. Now, we are confronted by a menace and we all have to put our heads together to rebuild our total security infrastructure, bring police team to the communities, to the cities so that we can ensure the safety of our citizens and therefore produce economic growth. The world is interested in how Nigeria fares. I believe this is what we can play about in this IPI conference.”

Also speaking, Chairman of IPI, John Yearwood, who said the IPI would be 70 years in existence in the next two years, urged Buhari to look into the issue of the incarceration of a Nigerian journalist in Bayelsa. 

He also used the forum to invite the president to IPI conference next year. The IPI chairman also thanked the organisers of the event particularly the LOC chairman and members of the team.

“I will like to urge President Buhari who is the champion of the people of Nigeria to look into the issue of journalists incarcerated. Our hope is that next year, he will be with us. IPI is a strong organisation and getting stronger,” he said.

In his own speech, the Executive Director of IPI, Barbara Trionfi, lamented the spate of attacks on journalists across the world, lamenting that despite the degree of press freedom being enjoyed in Nigeria, journalists still face challenges.

“As we gather here today from different countries to open IPI’s 67th World Congress, there is a sense that independent journalism is under attack and press freedom has eroded all over the world. From Mexico to the Philippines, from Zimbabwe to Turkey, from Russia to Ethiopia, journalists are being imprisoned. They are denied access to justice. 

“They are threatened and insulted on social media.  They are directly targeted and labeled as traitors and enemies of the state and they are killed, shot in front of their houses, on their way to work, by killers who know that murdering journalists is the easiest way to silence them and ensure that the stories of corruption they were investigating, the wrongdoings they had uncovered will never be revealed.

“At least 43 journalists have been killed so far in 2018 in places like Afghanistan, Mexico, India, Pakistan or the Philippines to mention a few. Also here in Nigeria, a country with a very lively news industry which enjoys a good degree of press freedom, safety has been a serious problem for journalists, not only those covering the areas where insurgents are active but also journalists covering corruption have been targeted,” Trionfi stated.