Lagos – The Online Publishers Association of Nigeria (OPAN) has expressed concern over the dissemination of fake news by some practitioners in the new media.
Mr Austyn Ogannah, OPAN’s president expressed this concern at the annual conference of the association in Lagos, on Tuesday.
He described the practice as unethical and unacceptable, saying that it threatens the peace and stability of the society.
Oganna said that the penchant of some practitioners to unethically dish out fake and malicious news just to draw traffic was eroding the credibility of the new media.
He described the new media as the future of journalism in view of its potential to reach more readers and stimulate development.
Oganna however said if the new media must realise its potential of influencing decisions and promoting development, the issue of fake news must be addressed.
“The issue of dissemination of fake news in the new media is creating a lot of credibility issue and we are deeply concerned.
“Though there are so many online publishers doing the right thing, the democratisation of the new media space has thrown up those who are not adhering to the ethics
`We need to deal with the issue. We need to entrench credibility in our practice. OPAN will continue to pursue efforts to address the issue,’ he said.
Ogannah said it would be difficult to police or regulate the new media because of its open and liberal nature.
He, however, said OPAN would engage all its members on the need to shun fake news and operate by the ethics.
He said the conference was part of efforts to highlight the conversation to promote credibility in the new media.
According to him, OPAN, through exchange of ideas and mentorship from the leading lights in the industry, hoped to address the problem.
Reports that a panel of media experts spoke on the ways the new media could restore its credibility.
One of the panelists, spokesman of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, noted that the new media was critical to the development of democracy.
He said that for the new media to live to its responsibilities, it must be self -regulated to address blackmail and fake news.
Abdullahi said the regulation of the social media should not be done to the extent of emasculating the media space.
“We should strike a balance between regulation of the new media and emasculation
of the space.
“The issue of fake news is dangerous. There should be a check so that people cannot just come to the space and dish out what could hurt the society.
“In some countries, you can’t just come online and post things that are not pleasant or untrue. You will be tracked.
“Also, in China, there are some websites you cannot open as a matter of regulation.
“The credibility of the new media is very important to the stability of the society and survival of democracy,’’ he said.
He urged media practitioners not to colour their reports with religious and ethnic sentiments in view of the dangers it might pose to the society.
Another panelist, Mr Kolawole Ologbodiyan, the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) said he was opposed to the regulation of the social media.
He said the new media was one of the best things to have happened to democracy, as it widens access to information and promotes free speech.
Ologbodiyan, however, urged users and players in the new media industry to always verify information before sending or sharing them out.
He said the Freedom of Information (FOI) was one of the legacies of the PDP-led government, to empower the media and citizens on accountability in government.
Ologbodiyan, however, frowned at the poor use of the Act to ask questions from government, urging the media to rise up to the occasion.
“The media should rise to the occasion and use the FOI tool to promote good governance,” he said.
The founder of Premium Times, Mr Dapo Olorunyomi, said remuneration of staff was key to ensuring credibility of the media.
He said if reporters are not paid their salaries, they might compromise ethics and truth in their work.(NAN)