A Journalist and Editor, Moses Idika has decried the proliferation of shabby and unethical practice of journalism amongst online news media, blogs and other media practitioners in Nigeria.
Moses Idika made this remark following a publication made by a particular online media outlet stating that 50 members of the House of Representatives tested positive for Covid-19.
In his statement on Tuesday, made available to TheNigeriaLawyer, Moses noted that it is heart renting that practitioners of online newspapers have allowed those whose targets are to discredit the news media by peddling lies and conjectures in the name of “exclusive” news items and reports.
He went on to make reference to the words of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila while engaging with journalists that cover the activities of the House of Representatives on July 2nd, 2020. Gbajabiamila said:
“The media has the capacity to shape the narrative, but what it does not know is that that capacity is dwindling.
“Its fast dwindling because more and more Nigerians are beginning to say, “wait a minute these people often don’t tell the truth.” “This people often don’t investigate.”
The media is losing credibility. “Gone are those days when you pick up the paper and what you read you know is gospel truth.”
According to Moses, “with the coming of the internet and its democratization of the media practice whereby a new brand of journalisms has emerged, the idea of fake news crept in too. With the internet at the finger tip of people everywhere in the world citizen journalism was born. Everyone with a phone can practically report events (news).
Today every news medium now has the “eye witness” segment where citizens who may not be professionally trained journalists generate content for media houses by recording and sending such events to the media outlet for publishing.
“Indeed, there is no sphere of human endeavour that has been affected by the advent of the internet like the media sector.
“However, even with the plethora of “news” activities in the internet space, online news media remain distinct from “citizen journalists” and bloggers.
The difference here lies in the fact that online news platforms or online newspapers actually practice journalism according to the established rules and ethics of journalism which basically stands on the mantra that says “when in doubt, leave out.”
Furthermore, he described the incessant distrusts in news on social media as worrisome because of fake news being peddled thereon.
“As a practicing online journalist and a member of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) it saddens me that we (online journalists) are rather becoming our own biggest enemies. It is now a common thing for people both in public office and private individuals to constantly use such comments like “I read it in the social media,” “it was all over social media,” “you cannot rely on social media account” and many such comments which primarily aim to belittle the source or make it look like since it was not delivered on print or television the “credibility” of the news is in doubt!”
He also said that it becomes even more painful when practitioners of online newspapers play into the hand of the those whose sole aim is to discredit the new media by peddling lies and conjectures in the name of “exclusive” news items and reports.
According to him, Sahara Reporters has been in the forefront as a result of the incidence of alleged fake news being published through it.
“Sahara Reporters is one of the very first online newspapers in Nigeria, though published from the United States of America, nearly 100% of its news content come from Nigeria or concerns Nigeria.
“However, of late Sahara Reporters has consistently put those of us in the online newspaper business at risk of serious public distrust.
“Just last week (July 7, 2020), the newspaper reported that 50 members of the House of Representatives had tested positive to the dreaded coronavirus prompting the the House to adjourn for a week.
“This particular report which has since been found to be false triggered series of unpleasant consequences for everyone working in the complex as even their families became alarmed and jittery.
“The House through its spokesman, Hon. Benjamin Kalu in a press statement refuted the Sahara Reporters claim, but even then the damage had been done.
“There has been series of outcry by people and organisations that had been “victimized” by this news medium.”
Besides, he alluded to the circumstances between Sahara Reporters and Okonjo Nweala thus:
“One of the outstanding cases was documented on pages 19 and 20 of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s recent book: Fighting Corruption is Dangerous
“In her account, Okonjo-Iweala, two time Nigeria’s former Finance Minister wrote, “Friends and family alerted me to a spate of articles that had began to appear in a Nigerian online news outlet, Sahara Reporters, that were attacking me and the notion of my return to government as Finance Minister.
“…One night I received a call on a private phone line that I had reserved for use only by my family. When I picked up the phone expecting a family member, a voice said this was Omoyele Sowore of Sahara Reporters and he had some questions for me to answer. I was outraged… shortly after, a tape of our conversation appeared on the internet. Not only had this man violated all rules of decent behavior, but he had gone beyond to do something as unethical as taping our conversation without my knowledge or permission. I did think this was a news medium worthy of any attention.”
In addition, Moses noted that it is an issue of concern that the practice of Sahara Reporters poses a threat to journalism.
“As journalist practicing in an online news outlet, I am deeply worried that the tactics and practices of Sahara Reporters as an online news platform may eventually be overwhelmingly discredit us all to a point that we may be run out of the market.”
He further said that the era of fake news, distortion of facts and subjective presentation of information by the media is becoming worrisome. It is more devastating when as an established media organization like Sahara Reporters now dwells on junk journalism.
Similarly, he noted that the practice of Sahara Reporters poses danger to other credible platforms.
“We have credible online newspapers like Premium Times, The Cable, Legit NG, Pulse, eparliament, Orderpaper Starnews, Daily Post, Daily Nigerian TheNigeriaLawyer and many more that have distinguished themselves as very credible news sources, yet the action on one single medium continues tar every one with a brush of ignominy” He said.
“It has therefore, become imperative to call on media regulatory agencies, media rights based organizations, including the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Nigerians Guild of Editors, American Society of Newspaper Editors, Nigerian Press Council, Media Right Concerns, International Press Council among other stakeholders to speak out against these unethical practices to nip in the bud this ominous signs looming as a result of the tactics and practice of journalism in the hue seen from Sahara Reporters,” he added.