Okowa tasks media practitioners on fake news

Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta on Tuesday cautioned social media practitioners to be wary of the destructive effect of fake news to any society.

The governor said this in Asaba at Delta State Strategic Communication Workshop organised for media aides, journalists, social media influencers and bloggers in the state.

The workshop with the theme “Effective Communication and Media Crisis Management in Governance: Challenges and Solutions”, is designed to enhance the potentials and skills of participants.

Okowa, represented by the State Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, said the theme of the training was apt and would help to reduce the friction between government and social media practitioners.

He said that it was worrisome that the new media lacked ethical standards as in the conventional media, portraying it as a mill for rumour and fake news.

He said that the new media was now vehicle for propaganda and fake news against persons, organisations, institutions and governments.

He charged media practitioners, both in public and private sectors, to go about their duties diligently but with a deep sense of responsibility and patriotism.

“The social media has become vibrant and almost competing with the conventional media, except for the fact that there are no gatekeepers in the social media platforms.

“The ethical standards in conventional media is also absent in social media platforms and this has portrayed the new media, as a battle ground for all kinds of rumours, fake news, half-truths while propaganda are peddled against persons, organisations, institutions and governments.

“There is therefore, the constant need for cross-checking so that social media will earn reasonable reputation like the conventional media,” he said.

The governor said that his administration had taken advantage of the social media to communicate with the people of the state especially the young and upwardly mobile people.

“I am pleased to be part of this workshop aimed at sensitising, improving and sharpening the knowledge and skills of media aides in this administration, including social media influencers and bloggers.

“This is in line with government agenda in the area of human capital development, skills acquisition, vocational training and effective communication through appropriate channels.

“The media can be very powerful and play multi-faceted roles in nation-building as the watchdog of the society. Its relevance is buttressed in section 4 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

“The theme of this year’s strategic communication workshop, is apt, because there is need for media practitioners, both in public and private sectors, to go about their duties diligently but with a deep sense of responsibility and patriotism,” he said.

He said the workshop provided ample opportunity for those without formal training and trained journalists, to upgrade, refresh and sharpen their skills on how to use their time and data on social media to earn a living.

He noted that his administration had enjoyed tremendous working relationships with members of the press.

Also, David Edevbie, Chief of Staff to the Governor, called for the establishment of development communication policy in the state, describing communication as an essential and integral part of government.

He stressed the need for government information managers to always speak with one voice to avoid multiple reports of government activities.

The Chief Trainer, Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye, said communication and information were catalyst successful governments employ to achieve growth and development.

He added that if not properly managed, it could provoke anyone to act in a manner that could cause crisis in the society.

Akinfeleye said that as government information managers, it was their duty to adopt the gatekeeping theory to ensure that sensible information going out to the public did not cause damage or crisis in the society.

Earlier in an address, Executive Assistant on Communications to the governor, Mr Fred Latimore, thanked the Gov. Okowa for giving the participants the opportunity to learn.

He said that the essence of the programme was to train the social media bloggers to work in line with the ethics of journalism.

He said that instead of enacting more laws to muscle freedom of speech and freedom of the press, Gov. Okowa chose to train media influencers in order to avoid fake news and other tendencies.(NAN)