By Linda Ike
The Federal Government has insisted that press freedom must be exercised with great responsibility to achieve its indispensable role in democracy.
Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clem Agba, stated this on Monday in Abuja at workshop organised by Coalition for Good Governance and Economic Justice in Africa (CGGEJA) with the theme “Balancing Ethics and Patriotism: The Obligations of Journalists to Their Country”.
The Minister who was represented by the Statistician-General of the Federation and Chief Executive Officer of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Semiu Adeniran, said that free press is the bastion of democracy
“The significance of the press as the watchdog of the society has helped to reverse the erroneous assumption that a democratic state runs solely on the trinity of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. It is also to the credit of the watchdog role of the press that it has entered or earned for itself, the recognition as the fourth estate of the realm.
“The press watches the three arms and tries to ensure they are accountable to the people. This scenario underscores the extensive influence and power of the press which will be exercised with a great deal of responsibility. Otherwise, the press will also not become only unruly but also tyrannical.
“Journalists just like those in government has the very great responsibility to ensure that there is peace, harmony, stability and development in the country which I believe is one of the reasons the organisers of this workshop has chosen the topic, balancing ethics and patriotism,” he said.
In his remark, Country Director of the Coalition for Good Governance and Economic Justice in Africa ( CGGEJA), John Mayaki said the menace of fake can be controlled through the use of technology for fact- checking information on social media before further dissemination, stressing that self regulation remains the key to curbing it.
“Self regulation is the best because it is a democratic setting and system. We don’t expect the government to shut down the media or to regulate its content. But we as journalists can self regulate. But unfortunately, technology and social media has not helped us.
“Social media does not have regulation. People just sit in their cubicle or in the mountain or in the dungeon and just write anything, and when there is crisis everywhere, someone will start laughing somewhere and saying- I caught them. This is unsettling.
“If the nation is set on fire, everyone will be affected. So there is the need to come together and bring in experts who will teach us how to fact-check information. Technology has gone so far, you don’t need to ask anybody, on your own, you can fact-check.
“This is where the question of government regulation and self-regulation comes into play. Would it be better for the government to regulate social media to save the country from a possible breakdown of law and order, or should we simply self-regulate as patriotic citizens? The latter option looks more plausible to me.
“We must all refrain from over-sensationalising news, refrain from exaggeration of news, and refrain from deliberate superimposition of different images to make believe,” he stated.
On his part, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, who was represented by his Special Adviser, Niyi Fatongun said: “Social media has come to stay and it is a good thing.
He also declared that to kill fake news which is capable of destroying the fabrics of a nation is important to kill fake accounts.
He said,.”However today people can get their views out to the public without restrictions, but It comes with responsibility. Social media has sidelined the gatekeepers.