WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY: Social Media Versus Journalism Ethics Amidst Danger of Fake News And Government Draconian Laws - By Ogo-Oluwa Adelakun - Penangle | News Portal in Nigeria
Sun. Jun 16th, 2024
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There is no question that the most potent force for real time information is the new media or what we all know as the internet.

The advent and the continuous growth of the Internet especially with the introduction of social media spaces like Facebook which has over a billion users or twitter; one of the most interactive social hubs in the world, there is no denying the strength and influence it has over the current society.

However, just like every other thing, social media and the internet generally has several issues.

Fake news and deliberate misinformation has bedeviled not only Nigeria but the world at large and like other nations in search of ways to curtail the menace, Nigeria has dusted her boots to join in the long journey on the very complex matter.

For a while now, the federal government through the Minister of Information, LAI MOHAMMED has talked tough on how to deal with the issue decisively, as it recently went further to set new policies and punitive measures regarding hate speech and fake news through terrestrial media. One must also mention that the very controversial #Endsars protest which gained international attention via the internet, further saw renewed calls especially within the political class, for government to regulate social media effectively.

Truth is, to political observers, the plethora of suggestions by the federal government is no surprise since a bill earlier sponsored by Senator Mohammed Sani Musa, representing Niger East tagged: ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019’, one which proposed a three-year jail term for anyone involved in the abuse of social media, died a natural death.

As the world marks “World Press Freedom Day” today, the concern for most Nigerians especially individuals in the press is; although ridding the media space of falsehoods is a very great and demanding task that quite frankly the federal government should be thanked for, the parameters to be used to interpret or determine fake news and hate speech is still very hazy.

Would true stories the rich and powerful never want to see daylight be perceived as such?

Is this a plan to gag freedom of speech and expression? Can government be trusted not to weaponize this against the opposition when in disagreement on sensitive issues that need attention?

Others are still puzzled as to why some within the corridors of Nigerian Leadership still long for new laws to deal with falsehoods on the internet when clear existing laws on sedition, defamation as well as cyber crime would render such superfluous or redundant.

Nonetheless, those who share this perspective believe it is commonsense for our laws to be amended to include potential threats from social media.
In addition, well meaning Nigerians have also advised the federal government to favour conversations  aimed at mitigating fake news and hate speeches with the likes of facebook and twitter, instead of modifying laws or making policies widely perceived as draconian by society.

Of course we in the press and those of us who have access to smartphones also owe society the decency to at least cross-check sources and information before dissemination as the effects of false information can lead to endless pandemonium in the society.

Meanwhile, those who have condemned social media must also be willing to run a transparent government; a system that is not afraid to be accountable to people they have been elected to serve.

The people must be responsible, the government must be accountable.

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