By Jon Egie

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Prof Abigail delivering the lecture

A university don, Prof Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika has called on all 70 presidential candidates enrolled by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC including President Muhammadu Buhari, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Donald Duke, Obiageli Ezekwesili, Kingsley Mogahul, Omoyele Sowore among others, to embrace issue-based campaign ahead of the 2019 presidential election in Nigeria.

The call was contained in a lecture she delivered during the occasion of the 2018 Delta Online Publishers’ Forum Convention, Wednesday, November 7, at Asaba, Delta state.

Speaking on the topic: ‘The Role of Online News Media in 2019 Elections’, Prof Ogwezzy-Ndisika who is the HOD, Mass Communication, University of Lagos, noted that with the aid of technology and the growth of online news media, “everyone has the power to be a content creator, publisher and consumer at the same time”.

She however, cautioned that as the country gears towards another electoral season, stakeholders in the media industry must be on guard and tackle fake news and its adverse effects so as to avoid a scenario of the ‘Russian Interference’ in the recent United States presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump playing out in Nigeria.

 

Chairman DOPF, Enebeli making his speech

She pointed out that recent studies have shown that only six per cent of the population of the United States trust online news sources and 52 per cent believe that online news sources constantly publish fake news stories and the trend is applicable to Nigeria where the online media has continued to grow.

According to her, the situation has prompted stakeholders in the industry to organize themselves in order to harmonize their thoughts and resources for improvement and hence, called on Delta Online Publishers’ Forum (DOPF), to take the front row in the fight against fakes.

“Bloggers and online publishers under the aegis of DOPF must seek to only publish what is true, accurate, balanced and in support of national unity.”

She recalled that in the 2015 general elections, politicians had a field day throwing different shades of acerbic comments through the online media with hate speech taking the centre stage.

“Several hate speeches and fake news were spread by leaders and citizens through the use of the media. There was the use of acerbic words, half-truths and outright lies by the politicians in their electioneering campaigns. The election was seen as a ‘do-or-die’ affair. The activities were alarming and apprehensions were rife about the success of the election and peaceful transition of power as the election clearly became  a ‘show unguarded’ with inexcusable statements that were offensive, uncouth, uncivilized and absolutely damning emanating from the two major political parties and the situation led to the signing of the ‘Abuja Accord’ peace pact.

 

Cross section of guests

“As the 2019 general elections draw near, I strongly advocate an issue-based campaign that will rise above individualistic approach to campaign.

“As online news purveyors, the onus lies on you to ensure information is disseminated professionally.  You must adopt the popular saying, when in doubt, leave out. Never be the first to publish unconfirmed stories as publishing unconfirmed stories goes a long way in tarnishing the image of news outfit and distort the information cycle and therefore, the credibility issue surrounding online news media has continued to tarnish the good works of seasoned journalists and online news media publishers.

“Nigeria needs a credible election, an election that will usher in a new set of leaders that will provide good governance, growth and development.

“As the election umpire continues to plan for the election billed for February 2019, the media must be an accomplice in this process.

 

Cross section of guests

“The media especially online media must be at the fore front of ensuring that the right narratives are in the public domain. The media must not be used again as the ground for politicians to throw tantrums at each other.

“If Nigeria breaks, no one will have any place to call home. As such, every stakeholder in the media industry must strive to uphold the tenets of the profession.

“Journalists that work for online news media must be patriotic and passionate about having a Nigeria that works. They must not give the ‘media rostrum’ to politicians to pontificate at will through comments laced with acerbic, half-truths and lies.” She concluded.

Earlier in his speech, the chairman of DOPF, Mr Emmanuel Enebeli said the body sticks faithfully to its principles of Ethics, Professionalism and Service in the delivery of journalistic mandate as publishers and purveyors of credible news and authentic and verifiable information.

 

The lead speaker, prof Abigail

“We have adhered unwaveringly to the excellent tenets required for the advancement of media business in the state and in the country by embracing the basic principles of media practice and using our individual organizations to promote the good of the people and the reportage of accurate news and events towards ensuring a better and more enlightened society.

“It is equally important to state that the collaboration between DOPF and key players in the media/information sector, including the government and other business communities, is very necessary as a collective responsibility towards achieving a secured nation.

“Those who monitored the last general elections in the country will agree that fake news, prior to the 2015 election, became a tool of abuse, divisiveness and distraction employed recklessly and with devastating effect which repercussion we are still feeling today. So, it will be for our own good to collectively fight the menace.

 

Panelists discussing the issue of fake news

“Individual members of DOPF are registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission and hence are operating under the law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and therefore are visible for verification and accountable for the materials published in their platforms”. Enebeli said.

In his opening remarks, the chairman of the occasion, Mr Mike Ikeogwu who is the Delta state chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) described DOPF members as professionals who have distinguished themselves with clear observance of the ethics of the job.

He called on DOPF to checkmate the activities of quacks by sanction and education stressing that the need for factual and objecting reportage of events and political activities before, during and after the election should not be undermined especially as online reports are faster than the traditional media.

 

Members of DOPF in a pose with Mr Daniels of Google after a training workshop

Membership of DOPF include: Enebelli Emmanuel of Ndokwa reporters (www.ndokwareprters.com), Shedrack Onitsha of Advocate (www.advocateng.com), Chukwudi Abiandu of Banner Online (www.banneronlinenews.com), Joe Ogbodu of Big Pen (www.bigpenng.com), Laba Oghenekevwe of Urhobo Today (www.urhobotoday.com), Davis Diai of Flash Point News (www.flashpointnews.com), Albert Ograka of Blank News (www.blanknewsonline.com), Kparobo Egwubare of Sun reporters (www.sunreporters.com), Chijoke Ogbolue of Show case news (www.cshowcasenews.com), Miracle Enuji of Asaba metro (www.asabametro.com), Jacob Abai of Gbaranatu Voice News (www.gbaramatuvoicenews.com), Victor  Okies of National reformer (www.nationalreformer.com), Omafume Amurun of News room 247 (www.newsroom247.com.ng) and John Egie of Spy News (www.spynewsng.com).

 

New members inducted into DOPF taking oath

Five new members were inducted during the occasion namely; Oghenfejiro Emado of Track-up (www.track-up.com), Abel Johngold Orheruata of Spade (www.spadeng.com), Egbonimali Shedrack of Delta decides (www.deltadecide.com), Austin Oyibode of Emerald (www.emeraldng.com) and Dennis Out of Empire newspaper (www.empirenewspaper.com).

Highlight of the occasion was the presentation of merit award to Mr Patrick Ukah, Timi Alaibe, Engr Samuel Adjogbe, Chief Felix Anirah, Engr Emeka Nwaobi, Barr Malchy Ugwummadu, Barr Oeniroro Ogedegbe, Chief Monday Itoghor and Prince Tony Godday Erewa.