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Press Freedom: Avoid fake news, double check information – Prof. Thomas

#TrackNigeria: A U.S.-based Professor of Broadcast Journalism, Jennifer Thomas, on Friday advised journalists to always double check their sources of information before publishing in other to avoid promoting fake news.

Thomas said this while addressing newsmen at the World Press Freedom Day organised by the U.S. Consulate General at the Pan Atlantic University, Lekki, Lagos State.

She said, “There are a lot of things journalists can do to stay away from promoting fake news.

“The first thing is to consider the source of the information and check the URL of the website to ascertain the authenticity of the person who is being  quoted in the article.

“Often times, such quotes come from a satire site where somebody is trying to deliberately deceive with disinformation.

“These  are some of the things journalists can do that will help us start to poke a hole in some of these fake news outlets,” she said.

Thomas said that the need for focused fact-checking and balancing in telling both sides of a story was more important now than ever before because of the advent of social media.

“It is hard because social media is everywhere and news is out instantaneously which makes it difficult to tell what is real and what is not.

“A tweet can quickly become world headline, and a rant on social media may be repeated as a lead story on news cast without the news network or outlet doing its due diligence.

“It is , therefore, important to be sure of our sources before publishing because what journalists do is important to democracy for every nation around the world,” she said.

The professor said that international organisations like the United Nations (UN) and UNESCO among others were currently doing a lot to ensure the safety of journalists.

She said that  there would soon be a conference  in Ethiopia  in honour of the World Press Freedom Day.

She said that the conference also  would be used to  tackle one of the major issues concerning journalism which is the safety of journalists around the world.

“From a global perspective, agencies are coming together and recognising that safety in journalism is paramount.

“They are calling out to governments around the world to ensure that journalists who are doing their jobs are being protected.

”Too many journalists die in the line of duty doing their jobs to defend democracy and this is disheartening, ” she said.

Thomas said that journalists were  the defenders of democracy, freedom fighters of the first amendments as well as savvy and sophisticated story tellers.

“Journalism is a calling, let us collectively on this World Press Freedom Day renew our calling,” the professor said.

Also, Mr Russell Brooks, the U.S. Consulate Public Affairs Officer,  said that one of the goals of the U.S. mission was to promote democracy and strengthen democratic institutions in Nigeria and all over the world.

Brooks said that it was important to utilise the world press freedom day to honour colleagues in the media and know what they were doing to uphold democracy.

“A free and responsible press is part of promoting democracy and the media represents the fourth estate of any democracy.

” We are all familiar with the executive, judiciary and legislative branches. Therefore, it is crucial that the media plays a significant role in holding the other three branches accountable,” he said.

Dr Ikechukwu Obiaya, Dean of the  School of Media and Communication, Pan Atlantic University,  said that hosting the event would help enlighten their students of what would be required of them as journalists.

“It is one thing to teach students a lot of theories but if they do not know how to identify those theories, it becomes useless.

” We have tried to ensure that our students have a practical element in what they do, this is why we bring practitioners into our university, ” the dean said. (NAN)

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