The International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos-Nigeria, held a two-day workshop for online journalists/bloggers on conflict sensitive reporting online, ahead of the 2019 general elections. The workshops, which were supported by the European Union (EU) under Component 4b: Support to the media of the EU Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) project, were held on Tuesday, September 18 and Wednesday September 19, 2018 at Continental Suites, IBB Boulevard, Ibara, Abeokuta, Ogun State and Thursday September 20 and Friday September 21, 2018 at Grand Pela Hotel, Abuja, respectively.
The two workshops attracted a total of 71 online journalists/bloggers, with the Abeokuta workshop attracting 36 participants from the six southwest states, while the Abuja workshop attracted 35 participants from the FCT, the North-East, North-Central, South-East and South-South regions of Nigeria.
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.
Goodwill Messages and Presentations
The workshop in Abeokuta which received goodwill remarks from Comrade Wole Shokunbi, Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Ogun State and Dr. Niran Malaolu, former Ogun state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, and the founding MD/CEO of Rock city FM, featured six main presentations.
There were presentations accompanied by an interactive questions/answers, comment sessions including a plenary session on emerging issues/real life scenarios and practical steps to managing conflict situations in online reporting that was moderated by the workshop facilitator/resource persons.
The first day had four presentations. The First presentation, Understanding conflict, its nature and character was delivered by Dr. Dan Jibo, Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ibadan, while the Second presentation, Understanding communication challenges in the age of conflict, hate speech and fake news was delivered by Professor Nosa Owens-Ibie, Dean, College of Social and Management Sciences (COSOMAS), Caleb University, Imota-Nigeria.
The Third Presentation, Contemporary conflicts in Nigeria and possible impact on media coverage of 2019 elections: the pitfalls to avoid in Online Reporting was anchored by Dr. Dan Jibo, while the fourth Presentation, Social Media and Elections: Knowing and Dealing with the Challenges was handled by Dr. Qasim Akinreti, Assistant News Editor, Voice of Nigeria (VON)/Chairman, Lagos NUJ.
There were two presentations on the second, namely, Giving practical effect to conflict sensitive reporting online by Dr. Qasim Akinreti and Sticking to ethics and professionalism in online reporting by Professor Nosa Owens-Ibie. A special session, Introduction to anti-hoax platforms was handled by Mr. Jamiun Folarin, Dept of Mass Communication, Crescent University, Abeokuta.
Six papers were also delivered at the Abuja leg of the workshop by three resources respectively. The first resource person, Dr. Ruqayyah Yusuf Aliyu of the Department of Information and Media Studies, Bayero University Kano, had two presentations, ‘Understanding Conflict: Its Nature & Character’ and ‘Hate Speech & Fake News: Imperatives of Ethics & Professionalism in Online Reporting in Nigeria’.
The second resource person, Dr. Y.Z Yau, Executive Director, CITAD presented two papers on ‘Contemporary Conflicts in Nigeria and Possible Impact on Media Coverage of 2019 Elections’ and ‘Monitoring of Hate Speech Online: Observations, Lessons and Recommendations from Outcomes’.
The third resource person, Mr. Musikilu Mojeed, Editor-In-Chief, Premium Times spoke on ‘Social Media & Elections: Giving Practical Effect to Conflict Sensitive Reporting Online‘ and ‘News gathering & Newsroom Gate keeping in Era of Hate Speech: Tips on Pitfalls to Avoid‘.
The Workshop identified and noted the following:
- Embellished’ news reports with tribal, ethnic or religious undertones are often the purveyor of conflicts in Nigeria.
- There are growing concerns about the use of social media and online mediums for the dissemination of fake news and hate speeches.
- Photo-shopped photographs and disturbing videos with fabricated local narratives promoted through online sources can trigger tension, political crisis and even communal conflict in sensitive communities.
- Conflict is a natural occurrence and inevitable; mainly orchestrated by perceived threats.
- Hate Speech is among the universal inflammatory speeches like dangerous and offensive speeches.
- Hate speech criminalizes people, demeans and puts them in a bad light.
- Hate Speech is not just about spoken or published words; it can come in the form of music, graphics or inscription on cloths, etc.
- Hate speech leads to violence due to explicit, implied, contextual or historical ‘call to action’ embedded therein. Therefore hate speech is a hallmark of dangerous speech.
- Online journalists/ bloggers are always on the edge to be the first to ‘break the news’ which inadvertently is lowering the bar of factual and professional reporting.
- Unprofessional reporting online cast aspersion on the credibility of media professionals working in the online environment.
In view of the forthcoming 2019 and subsequent elections, the following recommendations were made to serve as a guideline to online journalists/bloggers reporting governance and electoral matters:
- Online Journalists/Bloggers reporting governance and electoral matters should restrict themselves to the Ethical Framework & Stipulated Guidelines which would differentiate them from the regular trend of citizenship journalism.
- Online Journalists/Bloggers reporting governance and electoral matters should equip themselves with information and knowledge on conflicts especially its context, its underlining causes, its effects and preventive and corrective measures.
- Online Journalists/ Bloggers should profile peace makers and subdue voices of purveyors of intolerance and cheerleaders of hate, xenophobic & religious extremists.
- Online Journalists/Bloggers 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;
- Online journalists/ bloggers should be careful about reports and stories that could trigger killings and destruction;
- Online journalists/ bloggers should pay more attention to what they publish online because of the attendant implications for peaceful co-existence and social cohesion;
- Online journalists/ bloggers should note that their negligence in applying ethical considerations to reports online, can cause unnecessary violence or even deaths of people;
- Online journalists/ bloggers need to stick to ethical standards by making sure that contents are problem solving;
- Online journalists/ bloggers should embrace responsible journalism by looking out for accurate and factual dissemination of news;
- Online journalists/bloggers should avoid sensational and misleading headlines in their reports but rather stick to professional and credible reporting online;
- Online journalists/bloggers should verify news from all sides before publication in-order for their medium not to be tagged a medium of fake news;
- Online journalists/ bloggers should endeavor to cross check the source of their contents and should avoid words that could trigger crisis or conflict in their reportage;
- Online journalists/bloggers must be promoters of change and always guide against hate speech in their reporting in order not to raise political tension.
- Online Journalists/Bloggers should be at the vanguard of mitigating hate speech by appreciating the cultural differences (in Nigeria) and promoting common good and unity.
The participants expressed gratitude to the EU-SDGN for supporting the workshop.