By; PATRICK TITUS, Uyo
Information and strategy Commissioner in Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Charles Udoh has appealed to journalists in the state to resist the attempt by some politicians in the state to use them to disseminate fake news and hate speeches against their opponents.
Udoh made the appeal while declaring open this year’s Press Week of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Akwa Ibom state council held at the Press Centre, Information Drive Uyo, on Wednesday.
The Commissioner who expressed dismay over what he described as unfortunate scenario, the current trend where a section of the media industry in the state is being used to incite the public against government through falsehood and propaganda in other to distort the enduring peace in the state, even as the country prepares for 2019 general elections.
Mr. Udoh who specifically pointed at rankling that ensue at the state house of assembly where violence and other unlawful practices become the order of the day with its resultant negative effect on normal legislative duties of the house while property at the assembly complex have been destroyed by hired thugs, said the development is a threat to the peace which has been enjoyed in the state for over three years of Governor Udom Emmanuel administration.
“In the last two to three weeks, Akwa Ibom state has been a centre of comedy of uncivilized acts and conducts created by some politicians to malign their opponents and cause disaffection in the minds of the people. Looking at the ills of these developments to the peace and progress of the state, journalists therefore, have the role to play by rising up and educate the people on the negative effects of this ugly trend because violence and war can never be a way to solving problem.
“This is the time calls for journalists to look at themselves at the mirror, appraise their activities and think of what they can do to save present generation and generations unborn”, Mr. Udoh posited.
According to the information and strategy boss who himself is a journalist said, “It is our chance to redeem our image as a professionals by standing for the truth, be on side of peace and righteousness for our profession, state and nation to be exalted.”
Mr. Udo who described the theme of the 2018 Press Week: “2019 Election: Journalists and the ballots”, as apt commended the State Council of the Union for chosen the theme since violence has no better place in democracy.
Also in his keynote address delivered on the event, Richard Akinnola Esq., Director Media Law Centre, Lagos observed that hate speech is not free speech while fake news is not also press freedom.
Akinnola whose paper titled: “Tackling Fake New and Hate Speech – the legal implications with the context of freedom of expression” said, “Press freedom comes with responsibilities because for every right, there is a corresponding limitation.”
He stressed the need for journalists to be more circumspect as the general elections approach otherwise they will become tools in the hands of politicians to malign their opponents, while mudslinging, muckraking and sensationalism and outright falsehood are peddled.
Sounding a note of warning, Akinnola said, “We must be mindful of what we write today because tomorrow is almost here”.
Earlier, the chairman of the state council of NUJ, Elder Patrick Albert in a welcome address said that the theme for the 2018 Press Week; “2019 Elections: Journalists and the Ballots” was taken to offer illumination to the forthcoming 2019 Elections vis-à-vis the role of journalists and other stakeholders in the electoral processes.
He pointed out that Journalists as members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm and the society’s watch dogs, called for the need to frequently take a purview on issues not only to improve and widen the professional proficiency of journalists but also to offer insightful solutions that will enhance the peace, law, order and good governance of the society.
“The thrust of the 2018 Press Week is in direct proportion to the very vital role of the media towards the sustenance of democracy.
Accordingly, after 58 years of Nationhood and sustained 19 years of democratic rule, we cannot afford to fail.
Nigerians irrespective of religious or political affiliations should all resolve to have peaceful electoral processes come 2019 General Elections.
“Undisputedly, democracy remains the most ideal form of governance. It is not only that it is styled as the Government of the People by the People and for the People but democracy is conceived to be transparent in its processes, with procedural checks and balances to make it acceptable,” Elder Albert reasoned.
The chairman on the occasion was Prof. Celestine Ntuen, Vice Chancellor of Ritman University, Ikot Ekpene.
The 2018 Press Week which began on Sunday with a dedication service at the Apostolic Church, Water Board Assembly, Etoi with the theme, “Pursue Righteousness” derived from 1 Timothy 6: 11 will be rounded up on Friday with Excellence Award and Luncheon.
Among the awardees will be the state governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel who will bag an Outstanding Peace Achievement Award. Other eminent personalities slated as recipients are Arc (Obong) Victor Attah, former governor of the state and Otuekong Don Etiebet, former minister of petroleum.