At inauguration, Delta State Govt urges online publishers to be responsible
By Jon Egie
Delta State Online Publishers Forum (DOPF) has been urged to understand their role as ombudsman to regulate the business of online publishing in the State.
Delta State Commissioner for Information, Mr Patrick Ukah gave the advise during the inauguration ceremony of DOPF held at the Chad-ef Hotel, Asaba; Wednesday, Oct. 11.
He said members of the body need to act as watchdog of the society and government and not to indulge in acts of blackmail, adding that the choice was theirs to act as agents of destruction or partners in progress with government and the public.
He lamented that it is on record that online media thrive on fake news but encouraged DOPF to find a business model that would promote integrity and enhance profits.
“You must not only regulate but also conduct your members in a way that is professional so as to remain a veritable tool for patronage with the State government”.
Chairman of the, Hon Christopher Ochor Ochor who was represented by Hon Chief Charles Emetulu, in his opening remark, called on DOPF to regulate the type of information its members give out to the public saying, any unverified message sent out is not only dangerous but capable of breaching the peace of the society.
“I expect members of DOPF to ensure that they are not used to inflict pains and destruction on our dear State. You should do more to use your media to project the good things about our communities and Delta State in general.”
He observed that Deltans are fed more with negative reports rather than development effort of the State government in ensuring the promise of prosperity for all Deltans is achieved.
“The beautiful works of our amiable governor, Sen. Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, in increasing wealth and prosperity among Deltans should be projected and sold to the outside world. The online media houses should be able to partner with the government and other development agencies in the State to see that the good things happening in the State are made known to the world.
“I call on all media professionals in the State to use their profession for the advancement of the State to becoming an investors’ haven. They should criticize constructively, seek for and analyze information obtained before releasing them to the public if we must achieve accountability and good governance.
“The media, especially the online practice journalism, which today has become the fastest means of information dissemination should be made to be accountable to the public by always making sure they broadcast news that are real, genuine and developmental. It is only when this is done that their impact can be properly accepted as partners in the development of the society.” Ochor Ochor said.
Speaker of the DTHA, Rt. Hon Sheriff Oborevwori who was represented by his Political Adviser, Dr Ebenezer Okorodudu, in his speech identified the media, being the fourth estate of the realm, as partners in progress with government burdened with the duty of criticizing and advising the government. But in carrying out their duty, he charged the media to be ethical, check negative journalism, promote unity and development of the State, create a convenient environment for investment and play a critical role in promoting participatory democracy.
A keynote address on Impact of Online Journalism on Good Governance and Accountability was delivered by the National President, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Barr Malachy Ugwummadu. He attempted to provide answers to two basic questions: What could be the impact of online media on governance and democracy? And, how is online media regulated and governed?
In the discourse, the guest speaker highlighted that “Online or digital and social media have definitely widened engagement and created new forms of collective action and social protest at an increasingly global scale but this can and does exclude other groups of people who do not access to such platforms.
Speaking on the concept of good governance which he said includes notions of greater participation by civil society in decision making, instituting the rule of law, anti-corruption, transparency, accountability, poverty reduction and human rights; he submitted that all aspects of good governance are facilitated by a strong and independent media-space within a society.
“Only when journalists are free to monitor, investigate and criticize the public administration’s policies and actions can good governance take hold. Independent media are like a beacon that should be welcomed when there is nothing to hide and much to improve. Indeed, this allows for ongoing checks and assessments of the activities of government and assist in bringing public concerns and voices into open by providing a platform for discussion. Instead, all too often, governments devise laws and informal means of keeping their activities hidden from the public view or only available to media favourable to their viewpoint.
“Freedom of the media and access to information allow for the formation of a public sphere in which a wide range of debates can take place and a variety of viewpoints be represented. The citizenry can thereby use the media to express their assent or dissent or explore aspects of issues not considered through official channels.
“Government has a responsibility to allow the online media to contribute to the participation process, especially in situations where face-to-face participation is not possible.”
He said with online media, profound changes are taking place with important implications for governance policy.
He however, stressed that empowerment of society at large is difficult to coordinate and maintain without widespread information about whether there are economic and political abuses by those in power and this difficulty, according to him, “is contained by effective online media”.
The human rights activist noted that the problem of identifying and verifying some of the sources and contents either shared or posted on digital or online media accounts is a great threat to democracy. He also pointed out that the difficulty of regulating the digital or online media appears to be undermining democracy.
In conclusion, the guest speaker said a responsible media with patriotism and incorruptibility can enhance governance and deepen democratic processes, he advised that the media as a strong pillar of democracy and agent for good governance should ensure objective scrutiny of players in the process like the Federal and State governments, the electoral umpires, security agencies, politicians and political parties.
“The media should ensure that the electorates are educated, informed and mobilized to treasure their voting rights and exercise them responsibly. Online media has emerged as a veritable platform to reach out to a mass of the people.
“The media should employ its strength of mass mobilization especially through the instrumentality of the digital or online platform, to impress on elected leaders at all levels of government that public office is public trust. The electorates should not remain perpetually docile but should raise appropriate questions on all critical issues that affect them either directly or indirectly and the leadership should appreciate such questions in good faith and not misconstrued as confrontational or attack on their manner of governance.
During a discussion session, one of the panelists, Comrade Eddy Ogude (South-South President, NUJ) said as watchdog of the society, online publishers should be transparent and reduce dependence on government.
“If you want to succeed you must maintain your integrity, be on your own and not to do the bidding of anybody.”
He appreciated the fact that the Press in Nigeria is poor and with no tools and hence, the prevalence of brown envelop. But he encouraged reporters to be transparent and verify their facts before publishing.
“Let us do more of developmental journalism because we are evolving, it will help you shape governments and the society” Ogude said.
Other panelists who made contributions were: U.S. based Ms Faith Nwadishi (Executive Director, Koyenum Immalah Organization), Ms Julie Ogbeni (Lecturer, DELSU, Abraka), U.K. based Sidney Foster of the Sanomi Foundation and Barr Maxwell Omens Ogedegbe who moderated the discussion.
Earlier, Chairman of DOPF, Mr Enebeli Emmanuel in his welcome address informed that the need to form an association of Delta online publishers derived from the fact that as registered businesses like the Manufacturing Association of Nigeria (MAN), the operators of these news websites were directly and indirectly employers of labour.
“They had transcended their primary profession of journalism and added a business aspect of providing information services through their respective media platforms.
“One area that needs to be properly defined here is that members of this forum are owners of News Publishing Websites and not Online Reporters or Online Journalists. Of course, most of our members are professional journalists too who are very conversant with the codes and ethics of journalism and who have practiced robustly in the media space with recognized media establishments but you can only be admitted into DOPF when you have a registered news website (Not BlogSpot), you operate a registered company and you meet up with the constitutional provisions for membership as stipulated in our constitution.
“While we have a large interest in public and private sector activities, our mandate as a group is to ensure that we attract the best means to run our businesses so that we can effectively contribute our quota to nation building, which we can effectively achieve when we closely study the business terrain and have a standard to operate and negotiate..
“Let me place it on record that members of this group have already achieved a kit of credibility as individuals and some of us had been lucky because as a result of our credibility and objectivity on issues, we had established relationship with the African Press Organization (APO), an African Newswire Services for daily news update around Africa.”
He said members of DOPF work with facts and figures, source for the news and do not depend mainly on third party news source. They check and cross-check facts, sources and information before going to press, knowing that whatever is published is automatically listed on Google, Yahoo and other search engines and is seen and read around the world in seconds.
“We take the news from our rural areas to the world and sometimes even the mainstream media in the country depend on us for authentic news from the rural communities
“Our main priority will be to provide an alternative, credible and believable platform to address and correct fake news as much as possible and promote the good of the State and her people. It must be understood that fake news always arises when the requested information is not provided, especially when an investigation is being carried out on burning issues that require public knowledge.
“Every side of a story deserves to be told but it is important to engage the right and effective information dissemination channels, especially if you want to counter fake news. This body is made up of credible and responsible news managers and establishments where your information will be perceived and received as genuine, correct and factual since it has been published either individually or under the auspices of DOPF collective membership.”
The leadership of DOPF that took oath of office at the inauguration include: Board of Trustees:- Amurun Omafume (Chairman), Albert Ograkia (Sec), Enebeli Emmanuel (Member), Shedrack Onitsha (Member), Chukwudi Abiandu (Member) and David Dia (Member).
The Executive Committee comprised of : Enebeli Emmanuel (Chairman), Shedrack Onitsha (Sec), Chukwudi Abiandu (Dep Chairman), Joe Ogbodu (Treasurer), Ugbolue Chijioke (Fin Sec), Miracle Enuji (Asst Sec) and Kparobo Ehwubare (PRO)
Goodwill messages were received from Rt Hon Ndudi Elumelu, Prof Pat Utomi, Hon Rev Ossai Nicholas Ossai, Rt. Hon Victor Ochei, Hon Emeka Emmanuel Nwaobi, Hon Anthony Emeka Elekeokwuri and Africanwatch.
DOPF members include: Ndokwa Reporters, Delta News Room, National Reformer, Spy News, Advocate Newspaper, Urhobo Today, Flashpoint News and Gbaramatu Voice.
Others are: Brief, Big Pen Online, Gt 9ja, Sun Reporters, Srtv, Blank News Online and Asaba Metro.