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Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, has urged journalists to be mindful of the kind of information they dish out to the public in order to safeguard peace, security and democracy.

Governor Lalong gave the charge in a speech in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, at the executive session of the 13th annual All Nigeria Editors’ Conference (ANEC).

The 13th ANEC organized by the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) which held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has as its theme, ‘Nigerian Media: Balancing Professionalism, Advocacy and Business.’

Represented by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mark Longyen, the governor counseled the media to embrace responsible reportage and developmental journalism as their watchword.

According to him, “the media can be very destructive when wrongly used, especially for political vendetta or mischief by the opposition or crisis merchants.”

The governor, in a statement issued by Longyen in Port Harcourt on Sunday noted that the country was passing through serious security threats, noting that journalists have a duty to contribute in dousing the tensions.

“Journalists should use their pens to safeguard peace, security and democratic governance rather than being used to fan the embers of hate and fueling the fragile peace by what they write,” he stressed.

He said: “In this era of global terrorism and insurgency, marauding herdsmen, ethnic militia and a viral Hurricane Maria-like social media, where killings, hate-speech and fake news take centre stage, with uncensored news flying at the speed of light, I urge the Nigerian Guild of Editors to urgently take deliberate steps to curb unbridled media impunity by sanctioning culprits, considering the dangerous implications of such unprofessional acts on the nation’s democracy, peace and security architecture.

According to him, “imbalance, inaccurate, inadequate or fake information, couched in hate or hatred can before, during or after a conflict, make people desperate, restless and easy to manipulate, thereby culminating in crisis of inadvertent, incalculable and unimaginable monumental proportions.

“Practicing journalists and their media (business) organizations, therefore, all risk being consumed in the attendant smoldering conflagration that could be occasioned by the very stories that they write, publish or broadcast,” he said.

Governor Lalong urged the media to purge themselves of unprofessional bias, as well as inculcate some form of patriotic self-censorship, while steering clear from what he called ‘sensational and judgmental journalism.’

He also noted that ANEC, being the largest single gathering of senior editors and journalists, was a fertile ground for media professionals and veterans to rub minds on issues bordering not only on their own profession but other critical issues of national and global import.

“It is an established fact that no democratic government, the world over, no less our Rescue Administration which prides in transparency and accountability, can exist in a vacuum. We run an open door government in which our activities, programs and actions are at all times subjected to the rigorous and sustained scrutiny of the media as our watchdog.

“Democracy is globally accepted as the rule of a majority, but a truly democratic framework also demands and ensures that those elected must be accountable to the electorate -and this is where the media play a very crucial role in ensuring that this is protected,” he added.

Lalong said that the Guild’s choice of the theme of this year’s conference was “apt, terse and timely.” According to him, although in the media it is said that “he who pays the piper dictates the tune, the media must ensure that the professional ethics of balance, fairness and truthfulness are strictly adhered to in their reportage, and not compromised or sacrificed on the altar of some pecuniary or mundane business or political interests.”

To this end, he said, journalists and their media organizations must strive to ensure that they deliberately inculcate in themselves the patriotic duty of professional agenda-setting towards a truthful, balanced, fair and unbiased account of events, as opposed to the routine of merely disseminating information to the public.

“Journalists should therefore use their pens as tools for the promotion, protection, safeguarding and building of peace and security, as well as the advancement and development of our nascent democracy.

“The media must purge themselves of unprofessional bias, inculcate patriotic self-censorship, stay clear of judgmental journalism, which is often dressed in the garb of speculative reportage and story embellishment,” the Governor admonished.

These measures, Lalong observed, would go a long way in creating an enabling environment for journalists and media businesses to thrive, while placing media advocacy on the front burner. This, he said, would culminate in precipitating balanced opinions, information equilibrium, peace and security and seamless democratic governance.

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