March 28, 2023

Any attempt to stifle press freedom unacceptable — US Embassy

#ENDSARS: US closes Consulate General Lagos

By Luminous Jannamike

The United States Embassy in Abuja yesterday stressed the need for industry-wide engagement with media professionals to set up a structure for countering misinformation in Nigeria.

The Public Affairs Counselor in the US Embassy, Mr Adnan Siddiqi, who stated this at a two-day  ”Train-the-Trainers Workshop”, on countering misinformation, co-organised by US consulate and Mythos Lab, insisted that press freedom was vital to the sustenance of Nigeria’s democracy.

According to Siddiqi, the training was necessitated by the many unconfirmed reports circulated in the media about the just-concluded elections and the results.

He, therefore, explained that the capacity-building workshop would  enhance the professionalism, institutional memory and sustainability of media practice in the country.

While noting that stakeholders would not allow covert or overt attempts to muzzle journalism practice in a democracy, he maintained that the principles of good journalism practice, such as truth, accuracy, balance, independence, and protection of journalists, must be upheld.

Siddiqi said:  “In Nigeria, during your just concluded election, there were many unconfirmed reports circulated in the media about election results. 

“Voters and readers were misled by the false information and it caused an immediate reaction. 

“Many people in Nigeria just accept the content they receive through the media. Many others don’t believe even legitimate news, they distrust everything equally to protect themselves.

“However, it’s very important to the United States in general to have freedom of the press around the world. 

“We see this as intrinsic to democracy. And we still believe that democracy is the best way to organise government to give advantage to the people, so that their voices are heard, and that they are represented fully in government.

“We feel it’s the best kind of government. And so freedom of the press is something we encourage all around the world not only through US embassies, but also NGOs, the private sector and other partnerships.”

“We think that it’s a way for the free flow of information to get accurate information out there, but like I said, it’s a competition of ideas. 

“Some people are very aggressive in the way they promote their ideas, and some people and some outlets are willing to mislead the public to gain advantage. And so, this is what we’re trying to prevent through this workshop.

“We, at the U.S. Embassy, are pleased to join you and our partner Mythos Labs today to promote greater fact-checking and digital literacy, while giving journalists and editors some practical tips and tools to reduce misinformation and disinformation and promoting digital literacy.”

He added that capacity-building would continue from Abuja on to Adamawa, Borno, Katsina, Yobe and Zamfara.

Speaking also, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Mythos Lab, Priyank Mathur, said capacity building for media professionals should be prioritised.

He explained that the workshop would focus on key, practical things that editors, reporters and bureaucracy of the various media associations as well as unions could do to prevent the spread of fake news and misinformation.