Social media, fake news a threat to journalism – Stakeholders

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The Editor of Africa Check, Mr David Ajikobi, says social media, fake news is a threat to journalism.

Ajikobi, made this known during a fact-checking workshop organised by the non-profit organisation set up in 2012 to promote accuracy in public debate and the media in Africa for journalists in Jos.

He urged journalists to be cautious of substituting facts with opinions saying it exhibits biases leading to distortion in news credibility.

The editor said sources of information must be verified as authentic before sharing while tasking journalists to familiarise themselves with online verification tools.

“There are apps such as Google Earth Map where the location of events can be verified. Much fake news of violent conflicts which has multiple negative effects in the society can be quelled through it, ” he said.

He said other tools like google reverse image, tin eye and Rev’s eye can be used to verify source of images and whether they are photoshopped or not.

Also speaking,  Mr Bulus Dabit, a former Managing Director of Plateau Radio-Television Corporation (PRTVC), warned; ”a lie  told repeatedly is often believed and unfortunately the journalist has no control over the content uploaded in the social media except those operated by its organisation.”

Dabit, who is also the state Director of National Orientation Agency (NOA) in Plateau, urged journalists to exercise ”oversight functions” over social media by not only exposing fake news but using their social handles to do same.

“Frequent exposure of fake news through traditional and new media will make a publication of fake news a bad business,” he said.

Speaking, Miss Gwamkat Gwamzhi, a reporter of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) said that social media was convenient to spread fake news because ” It is fast, and reaches its audience just at a click of its send button”

She, however, said accessibility of the media by internet users has ridiculed its many benefits in information sharing.

While the social media creates an interactive, affordable and accessible forum between news users and newsmakers, she said the public must be wary that unscrupulous elements use such platforms to perpetrate evil.

Contributing, Mr Paul Jatau, the chairman of National Union of Journalists, Plateau council, expressed fear that the proliferation of online publications can be used to spread fake news whilst calling for a law to checkmate the trend.

” Quack journalists and other non-professionals are hiding under such cover to disseminate fake news and promote hate speeches.

” We must sanitise the profession to prevent it from being an all-comers venture to enable us to discharge our duties as the watchdog of the society diligently,” he said.

While social media may threaten professionalism, sensitisation. he said campaigns were being conducted by media organisations, NOA and civil society organisations, to ensure that internet users are not vulnerable to use or share any information they see on the platforms.

He noted that such campaigns by these groups is a clear indication that concerted efforts were required to put producers of fake news out of business especially in a volatile society like Nigeria.

”As the press freedom day is being celebrated today, the struggle for an independent press is threatened by non-Professionals and social media users, who do not adopt the principles and ethics of journalism in information gathering and sharing.

”However, this does not deter the fight against threats to independent media and a period to celebrate journalists who have lost their lives in the fight for the truth.” he said.(NAN)

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