Chris Isiguzo, president of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), has said that distracting leaders from acts of governance through frivolities and malicious deployment of fake news and hate speeches would not augur well for the country.
Isiguzo made the remarks at the 2023 College of Arts and Social Sciences of the Igbinedion University, Okada Public Lecture with the title, ‘Rethinking the Social Media: Fake News and the Death of the Gatekeeper.’
The NUJ president, who said leaders should be held accountable to the people by the media, noted that criticisms should be done in an objective manner devoid of any sentiments and bias.
He added that criticism devoid of sentiments and bias was the only way to help sustain the nation’s democracy.
Isiguzo, who is also the president of Congress of African Journalists (CAJ), posited that journalist must be careful not to be tempted into propagating fake news.
He advised that proper and adequate checks must be ensured by media professionals before stories are written and transmitted for public consumption.
While urging journalists to stick with the ethics of the profession in the discharge of their duties, he added that care must be taken to crosscheck facts and do away with information that could cause mayhem and undermine peace, unity and development of the country.
“The mass media, as change agents, must embrace development journalism and should understand that they operate in a developing economy and their strategy must include modalities for lifting our population out of squalor, poverty and ignorance.
“The mainstream media must encourage effective practice to make rational choices. It is only with this kind of information that people can have the means to participate in a democratic process and shape their future.
“The Nigerian media has a rich track record of rooting for public welfare and protecting the underdog,” he said.
Isiguzo, who appreciated the complimentary role of social media to mainstream media noted with dismay the way fake news had dominated the social media space.
He explained that unlike the mainstream media where there are gatekeepers to check the spread of fake news, there are no gatekeepers to carry out such responsibilities on social media.
Earlier, the Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof Lawrence Ezemonye said the university had been using the college lectures’ on yearly basis to examine topics of national and global significance to generate ideas for policy direction.
Ezemonye represented by Prof Raphael Adeghe, the Deputy Vice Chancellor of the institution also added that the public lecture was to make critical interventions in national discourse, and set agenda for development in all fields of human endeavour.
He said that the choice of the topic was to provide intellectual platform to address the issue of fake news associated with new media and social media.
In her welcome address, Blessing Oligbi, Acting Dean, College of Arts and Social Sciences, said that the college was always at the forefront of promoting the core values of Igbinedion University, especially its mission to enhance human advancement.