Fake News: Collapse Of Investigative Journalism
Thomas Jefferson, the third American President, is credited with what many regard as the most flattering attribute to journalism.
“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter,’’ Jefferson wrote in January 1787.
Unfortunately for the newshounds, Jefferson is also credited with what is seen as the most devastating remark on the media.
“The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them,’’ Jefferson wrote few years later.
“In as much as he knows nothing, he is nearer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehood and errors.’’
Jefferson’s dramatic u-turn may just have been caused by the preponderance of fake news that has taken over today’s media space, with both the social and traditional media struggling to outdo each other in the spread of hoaxes.
Consider this. A state governor is reported to be involved in a road accident which killed the driver and left the governor with a broken spinal cord. He is reportedly ferried, unconscious, to a foreign country for urgent medical attention.
The governor appears days later, hale and hearty, to the shame of newspaper editors, who had splashed the road crash rumour on front pages.
Or this. A gateman, Musa Usman, makes it to the front pages of several newspapers and enjoys prime time on televisions and radio for rejecting a house offered him by an Indian boss he had served for 25 years, opting to rather have a borehole in his community.
For placing public good above personal interest, he is celebrated as a model, with encomiums flowing from all directions. Usman has, however, declared that no house was offered to him. He says that his Indian master did not give him such option. The house offer story was just someone’s imagination.
Not long ago, a news medium quoted a governor as pouring encomiums on his former political god father (now a bitter political rival) at a ceremony to mark the latter’s birthday. Such a report should ordinarily be a simple and harmless one.
But, few minutes after the story was published, the organ received threats of a legal action. The event never happened. It was a hoax by a reporter, who had no qualms feeding the public with utter falsehood. The news was fake. A cheap lie.
The instances are just everywhere. Aside the fake news, photos or videos are purposefully created and spread to confuse and misinform. Photos or videos are also manipulated to deceive, while old pictures are often shared as new.
In some cases, photos from other shores are shared in the Nigerian space, ostensibly to create the impression that they are local scenes.
Commenting on the trend recently, Prof. Umaru Pate, Head, Department of Mass Communication, Bayero University, Kano, said it was “dangerous, unethical, provocative and subversive to peace and societal serenity’’.
“Fake news misinforms and misdirects society with severe consequences on individual and national systems. It heightens tension, builds fear and mistrust among people.’’
Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has also deplored the trend, declaring recently that fake news could “threaten and destroy’’ the country. He has also launched a campaign against it.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo echoed similar worry in a speech at the biennial convention of the Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE), in Lagos recently.
“Fake news will make media practice lose its appeal; it will challenge the credibility which is the base of journalism practice,” he said.
He called on editors to consciously take back the space by infusing online media practice with traditional and professional competence, to right the wrongs in the industry.
“Some people must take up the role of speaking against the bastardisation of journalism by the new media,’’ he declared.
Osinbajo called for the resuscitation of investigative journalism to tackle national challenges and help government plan better, noting specifically, that the advent of the new media had increased misinformation through the spread of fake news and other negative reports that often caused confusion, disaffection and disunity.
“Editors must evolve strategies that will keep journalism in its place as the digital media appears to be moving away from the newsroom to the clouds,’’ he said.
Osinbajo regretted that the role of the newspaper was gradually being usurped as the print media continued in its pursuit of traffic, rather than accuracy.
He called on media stakeholders to equip newsrooms with gadgets and technologies that could detect and remove fake images from news items, and emphasised the need for accurate, fair, balanced and objective reportage at all times.
Like Osinbajo, many media analysts blame the worsening trend of fake news on the collapse of investigative journalism.
Mr Peter Amine, secretary of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Plateau State chapter, for instance, believes that the spread of fake news can be minimised if reporters and editors insist on the dictum “when in doubt, leave out’’.
“What we have, regrettably, is a situation where reporters, in a hurry to be the first with the news, hurl every rumour at the public. One can even understand the `wild freedom’ in the social media where there is no control, no editors, and no consequences for lying.
“But, what does one make of similar lies celebrated in the traditional media?’’ he queried.
Amine blamed the preponderance of fake news on laziness and the loss of the investigative culture that should be the hallmark of functional journalism.
He urged editors to rise up to the challenge of curtailing the activities of erring reporters.
But, as stakeholders strive to minimise the incidences of fake news, analysts have suggested a deeper look into why it is getting more common and becoming the norm.
According to Prof. Pate: “Fake news is partly caused by the absence, or late arrival of official information, which creates a vacuum filled by rumours and imaginations.’’
According to him, desperate politicians, ethnic jingoists, foreign interests and mischief makers have also taken advantage of the explosion in social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google, Nairaline and Whatsapp – to spew fake news and hate messages which inflict confusion into the society.
While urging media houses to focus more on investigative reporting, he cautioned against selective reporting and the promotion of prejudicial stereotypes about groups and individuals based on incomplete facts, mischief and ignorance.
Other analysts have also called for more training to reporters and editors to boost research capacities among media professionals so as to minimise shallow reporting and episodic attitudes in news coverage and programme production.
They have also cautioned the media against promoting statements of politicians, ethnic champions, religious zealots and other interested parties without critical inquiry about specific social conflicts. They noted that such groups were usually prone to spreading fake news against perceived rivals.
While urging media gatekeepers and news content managers to be more critical, the analysts have pointed out that publishing fake news could confer legitimacy, credibility and massive reach to such fakery and confuse the audience about truth and falsehood.
Worried by the effects of such misinformation, many Nigerians have always wondered if it is possible to quickly spot fake news to avoid being misled.
Dr Sylvestre Dada, a communication expert, offers suggestions.
“The readers, listeners or viewers must check multiple sources, and try to establish trusted brands over time.
“They should also use various verification tools, with news content managers encouraged to check and think, before broadcasting or publishing.’’
He added that young people should be educated on what was trustworthy, as against what is fake, so that they could draw a line between the two.
But as Nigeria strives for reliable information crucial to her growth, media professionals saddled with that task appear to face lots of challenges, including the limited knowledge of the country by even top editors. Another challenge is the commercialisation of news.
Other limitations include ownership influence, social malpractices and corruption, media professionals acting as judges or advocates for hidden interests, and cases of senior editorial staff acting as consultants to politicians and religious groups.
The existence of cartels among reporters covering specific beats has also led to the adulteration of what is reported as the “media gangs’’ only decide what information to publish after “discussing and agreeing’’ with the news sources.
Analysts say that such “unholy fraternity’’ has often led to the “burial’’ of some hard truths that would have been useful in the nation’s search for greatness.
Another challenge is the “copy-me’’ syndrome, a practice where reporters receive reports of events they did not cover, from colleagues, and publish same, not minding if what they had been “copied’’ is fake news. Not a few reporters have lost their jobs to this scary practice, yet it still persists.
To effectively battle fake news, observers have suggested closer working relationships among credible media organisations to facilitate the dissemination of only credible and verified news to reduce the attention to fake information by the social media.
They have also called for increased and continuous training for media professionals, with regulatory outfits encouraged to strictly apply the rules, while professional bodies keep eagle eyes on members to guide against derailment.
Sheyin writes for the News Agency of Nigeria.
Gender Equality And Path To Sustainable Development Goals
Disparities between women and men with regards to access to and control of economic resources and political power constitute a hindrance to bridging gender equality gaps.
As the gender variable enters the sustainable development equation, attention is now drawn to creating a better understanding of the role of gender equality and equity in poverty alleviation and achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It is pertinent to advance that gender equality agitation does not ignore the biological differences between men and women especially as regards reproductive roles.
Rather, it helps to appreciate the uniqueness of each gender group and the importance of bringing the different needs and priorities of both women and men into development plans.
According to the Gender Snapshot 2022 Report by UN women and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), at the current rate it will take close to 300 years to achieve full gender equality, one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The report further reveals how gender disparities are worsening due to COVID-19 pandemic, violence, climate change and backlash against women’s sexual and reproductive health rights.
It said these factors will make it difficult for many countries to meet SDG number 5 by 2030 deadline. SDG number 5 seeks to achieve gender equity and empowerment of women and girls.
The report highlighted the need for cooperation, partnership and investment to put the world back on track towards achieving the goal.
“Without swift action, legal systems that do not ban violence against women, or protect their rights in marriage and family, may continue to exist for generations to come”, it said.
Some stakeholders have advocated increased gender response in budgeting to promote awareness, equity and equality as part of the measures to close the widening gaps.
They said there is the need to ensure that women and men are free to develop their full potential and are able to make choices without restrictive gender roles.
Mrs Felicia Onibun, National Coordinator, 100 Women Lobby Group, at a workshop on Gender Responsive Budgeting Framework in Abuja, highlighted the need for a gender budgeting that is inclusive and captures women, Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) and all vulnerable people.
“Budgeting for gender response is important because women’s needs are different from men’s need. What a woman needs to achieve her goal is different from what a man needs”, she said.
Similarly Mrs Tayo Erinle, Executive Director, Talitha Cumi Foundation, said increased gender budgeting and budget performance will address discrimination, bias and other forms of violence against women and children.
Therefore, women and men’s need and interests are to be equally valued and protected if any nation is to achieve sustainable development.
Countries with wide gender gaps are found to exhibit poor indicators of growth like poor nutrition, high maternal and infant mortality rates, poverty, low life expectancy, low level of education and high prevalence of HIV/AIDS.
A major concern in many African countries is the continued low representation of women at all levels of governance and economic negotiations, especially at grassroots level.
A gender activist, Chinonso Okechukwu, at a recent media forum in Lagos said this anomaly must be addressed for any meaningful development to take place.
Okechukwu, the Focal Person of Nigerian Feminist Forum (NFF), decried the low female representation and participation in the public service and politics in Nigeria.
According to her the national average of women’s political participation has remained at 6.7 per cent in elective and appointive positions, a figure she said was not good enough
Women and men’s voices must be heard in all areas of development, including climate change, poverty and drafting of strategies and programmes for sustainable development.
Experts say governance must be gender-sensitive for it to be equitable, sustainable and effective.
Prof. Joy Ezeilo, the Founder of Women of Aid Collective (WACOL), an NGO, also frowns at the dismal participation of women in politics, saying many of them have continued to be disenfranchised.
“And there is no way we can make claims to sustainable development without full participation of women in governance and indeed in all sectors including economy,’’ she was quoted by the media as saying.
According to her because of the ‘mercantile politics‘ practiced in Nigeria most women cannot afford to venture into politics and be part of decision making and implementation processes.
“Sometimes women economic status also affects their political careers,’’ she said.
The Church And A New Hope For Nigeria
When a famous French statesman and writer,Alexis de Tocqueville,visited the United States of America not too long after its revolutionary independence from the colonial English power, he discovered a pleasant serenity that was present all over the vast land. He said he sought the answer everywhere, schools, offices, government institutions etc. After a diligent search, he got nowhere near resolving the puzzle.
Finally, the European wrote: ‘’I sought for the greatness of the United States in her commodious harbours, her ample rivers, her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there. I sought for it in her rich higher learning and it was not there. I looked for it in her democratic congress and her matchless constitution and it was not there. Not until I went to the Churches of America did I understand the secret of her genius and power.’’ Tocqueville said the prosperity of the United States at the time of his trip in the first half of the 19thCentury was due to the reliance of the citizens and their leaders on the messages of their Church leaders.
He was not speaking of a US version of Christian theocracy. He was simply saying that although the Americans ran a secular system with human beings and their business, administrative, educational and economic organs fully in place, they still allowed room for the messengers of God to guide them. In other words, the people were not overwhelmed and distracted by physical pursuits to satisfy physical needs. They sought the balance commanded by Jesus Christ: man must not live by bread alone, but by every word that flows from God.
Man is in grave danger if he dwells on materialism to the utter neglect of the spiritual. This is the point repeatedly made by Pastor William FolorunsoKumuyi, the General Superintendent (GS) of Deeper Christian Life Ministry, DCLM, as he mounts the rostrum to preach at his now well-received world-wide revival programmes called Global Crusade with Kumuyi, GCK. Being an unrepentant servant of Heaven determined to heed the call of God to preach only the truth that frees man from bondage, Kumuyi has been noted to do just that over the decades.
So, when in October 2021, Kumuyi’s GCK train arrived in Port Harcourt, capital of Nigeria’s South-South Rivers State, no one doubted that he brought a message amounting to a full-orbed teaching to humanity. Like the Frenchman Tocqueville, Kumuyi showed that true and lasting prosperity goes beyond material wealth and riches, plenty of which Rivers State, through its oil resources could boast of. But the point is not to trust in the gift of this abundance. Instead, the Lord wants man to honour the Giver of these riches more. That, according to Kumuyi, is the non-negotiable demand from Heaven to trigger more blessings.
So, coming with the theme, Showers of Blessingsthrough Christ, the cleric said that all humanity was truly promised the goodness of their Creator. Starting with God’s famous proclamation in the Bible in Ezekiel 34:26 where He prophesizes ‘’showers of blessing’’, Kumuyi said man should go deeper than thinking of these showers only in terms of material possessions. He spoke of a transcendent possession, namely salvation of the soul, which, according to him, opens up fuller and more meaningful relationship with Heaven, the headquarters and home of all good and lasting riches.
In effect, the revered evangelist was taking his audience back to the spiritual grundnorm enunciated by Jesus Christ in Matthew 6:33: Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
This is the message the whole materialistic world needs. But let’s start with Port Harcourt, capital of wealthy oil-soaked Rivers State. Its people must not be spiritually complacent, feeling self-sufficient, not conscious of a missing factor, because they have some showers of blessings already. Pastor Kumuyi said he brought the crusade to Port Harcourt to open the eyes of the people to see more depths of blessings. He told them that without first embracing Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, they would not only lose those blessings, but also they would be bereaved of joy here in the world and in the life after death. Kumuyi said “all humanity comprising all races, tribes and peoples have sinned and stand condemned before God,’’ no matter the level of their prosperity. The General Superintendent of Deeper Christian Life Ministry said the only solution is Christ’s Salvation, not a rat race for more riches or acquisition of property.
This applies to a world ensnared in the fever of explosive scientific and technological inventions and discoveries. Of course, all these are leading man to an unprecedented age of material blessings, threatening to ostracize God altogether from his world. This, argues Kumuyi, is the path of destruction, self-immolation. He called on the people to step away from the tip overlooking the consuming valley.What will follow such a wise decision to renounce worldliness and opt for the counsel of God?
Kumuyi said man will be positioned for unspeakable bliss as he settles for Christ. He proved this at the Port Harcourt crusade as he led thousands of sinners to salvation. Thereafter, following breakthrough prayers byKumuyi, God brought down miracles, healings, deliverances and signs with wonders to the people.
A man afflicted with prostate enlargement and high blood pressure was delivered. Another who was a member of a cultic society said after Pastor appeared to him in a dream he was saved from the demonic affiliation. There was the case of one who was freed from the unbearable pain after 13 years’ dislocation of his right arm. There was also the great miracle of a woman who was born with two navels. She lived with that condition for 21 years, until Kumuyi prayed and one of the navels disappeared. Incredible!
Pastor Kumuyi says the lesson from all these supernatural miracles from Heaven is that there is hope for lost man with room for more blessings than the relatively meagre showers we are celebrating at the moment. But first, he pleads, we must forsake the waywardness that separates us from God and prevents us from enjoying Him full length.
That is how Nigeria and its people can also be delivered from the challenges besetting us, the same way the United States of America was in the first half of the 19th Century.
By: Israel Mkpaoro
Dr. Mkpaoro is the Coordinator of the International Friendship League (IFL), Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Hostilities And Seamless Democratic Transition (II)
This is the concluding part of the above headline featured on wednesday, January 18, 2023.
According to reports, “the attack was likened to warfare with booming explosive devices and a massive exchange of gunfire between the hoodlums and security agencies, came on a day the INEC started the distribution of Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs, to people, who registered, recently. “The INEC raised the alarm over what it described as systematic and targeted attacks on its facilities nationwide, ahead of the 2023 general elections. “A policeman was killed in the attack, while another suffered a severe injury in the gun duel during the gunmen’s attack at the Imo State Headquarters of the INEC, Port Harcourt Road, Owerri. “This brings to three, the number of INEC offices in the state, attacked by the hoodlums since December I, 2022. The incident followed the earlier attacks on INEC’s Orlu LGA office on December 1, 2022, and the Oru West LGA office on December 4, 2022.
“Part of the INEC office was razed by the hoodlums, who used IEDs to completely burn the Election and Party Monitoring, EPM, building”. Addressing newsmen at the State Police Command’s Headquarters, Owerri, where the lifeless bodies of the hoodlums were displayed, the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Mr. Michael Abattam, said: “The gunmen killed one policeman and injured another one in the gun duel that lasted for about an hour. “Five riffles, two vehicles, charms, locally made bombs, phones and money were recovered from the slain gunmen.” Governor Uzodimma, of Imo State who visited the scene blamed desperate politicians for the attack, saying that security would be adequately provided for the INEC for the distribution of the PVCs in the state. Uzodimma said: “You can see why INEC is the target
I have continuously said that what is happening in Imo State is politically inclined and that they want to make Imo State ungovernable and ensure there will be no election in Imo State. “However, security agencies are prepared. INEC is prepared and there will be an election in Nigeria. I was told the majority of them who came on this journey are lying critically ill, some are neutralised and others fled with gunshot injuries. The police are ever committed. The other sister agencies are also committed to ensuring security in the state. “My assurance is that we will have a very beautiful environment for Christmas God willing. We urge our people to come out and collect their PVCs, there will be security agencies from the ward, local government areas to the state level. It will be a fruitful exercise.” Bemoaning the attack, Dr. Festus Okoye, INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, said: “Our Imo State headquarters is located in the centre of Owerri, between a court and the state secretariat. This is, therefore, yet another systematic attack targeted at the commission’s assets across the country, more so on the day that the collection of PVCs commences nationwide ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The Atiku-Okowa Presidential Campaign Organisation of the, PDP also expressed disappointment over attacks on INEC’s offices and called on Nigerians across party lines to support security services and INEC in their quest to ensure credible elections. Also, the Presidential Campaign Council of the Labour Party described the attacks as part of a larger plot to derail the 2023 general elections. Chief Spokesperson of the LP PCC, Dr. Yunusa Tanko, told Vanguard in a telephone interview that the attacks on INEC offices have been particularly high in the South-East and described the trend as worrisome. Tanko said: “It is worrisome no doubt but we will not be deterred. We see this as an attempt to give the South-East a bad name to give the impression that the people of the area don’t want elections to hold. “This is a lie. We will continue to support INEC an4epher Imumolen said: “The South-East has been agitating for too long because they feel neglected. The South-East has been marginalized and the President must wade in and ensure the region gets what it needs. “I believe that the South-East has been marginalized for too long. Nigeria is at war if we must truly say the truth but we need to unite our people but if we fail to do that, we will be seeing more attacks. “I condemn the burning of INEC officers, especially in the South-East, it is a condemnable act but we must look at the root cause and tackle it.“For us, we believe the security forces will live up to expectations to ensure that things that are needed to curb incidents like that should be totally eradicated.
In December, 2022 another INEC office was attacked in Oru West Local Government Area, three days after another INEC office was attacked in Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State. The Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Festus Okoye, confirmed the attack in a statement made available to journalists. “The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Imo State, Professor Sylvia Uchenna Agu, has reported that our office in Oru West Local Government Area was attacked at about 4.00am today Sunday 4th December 2022,” Mr Okoye wrote. “The attack affected the Conference Room where office furniture and fittings were destroyed,” he added. “However, other critical facilities were not affected.”Mr Okoye said the latest attack was the seventh on INEC facilities in the last four months. ‘It would be recalled that on Thursday 1st December 2022, our office in Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State was also attacked. Overall, this is the 7th attack on our facilities in five States of the Federation in the last four months.”Mr Okoye expressed concern about the systematic attack on the commission’s facilities across the country as it prepares to conduct the 2023 general elections. “Once again, the Commission expresses its concern on the consequences of what appears to be a systematic attack on its facilities across the country on the conduct of elections in particular and electoral activities in general. The attention of the security agencies has been drawn to this latest incident for investigation and prosecution” Mr Okoye said.
Four months ago, some suspected arsonists razed an INEC office in Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area of Enugu State. Also, two offices of INEC, in May 2021, were set ablaze by gunmen in Ebonyi State. The offices are located at Ezza North and Izzi local government areas of the state. Again, in September 2021, the commission’s office was set ablaze in Awgu Local Government Area office in Enugu State. The attacks on INEC facilities around the South-east and the South-south regions, as well as on security agencies, have been attributed to the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). But the group has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attacks. The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC office in Awgu, Enugu State was also not left out by the suspected hoodlums. It was gathered that the hoodlums carried out the dastard act, burning down a section of office. With combined efforts from security operatives, the fire was brought under control. Reacting to the development, National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye revealed that the incident was being investigated. Resident Electoral Commissioner for Enugu State, Mr. Emeka Ononamadu, who reported the attack on the INEC office in Awgu Local Government Area of the State, noted that the section of the building where the electoral materials are kept, was completely burnt down. “Fortunately, all movable election materials were evacuated and there were no casualties”, he said.
Considering the destruction of INEC offices, it is pertinent to say that politicians, their allies and the hoodlums are yet to learn from the past. There is need for politicians to cultivate political maturity in carrying out electioneering campaigns. The cases of attacks and counter attacks are very unnecessary and dents the credibility of a process that will produce national and state leaders. “Politics Without Bitterness” was the political mantra of the founder and presidential candidate of Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP), Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri. It behoves everyone to imbibe this guiding light. All political stakeholders should ensure a smooth transition to another democratic governance. Nigeria needs free, fair, peaceful and credible elections.
By: Igbiki Benibo
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