By The social media is defined as computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. Recently, these brands of the media have come under serious attack for roles the public termed inimical to the peace, stability, security of lives and property of the members of the society.
One of these arguments posits that ”the social media instead of serving as a factor uniting the society have turned to destroying it by functioning as veritable tools of character assassination ,tools in the hands of blackmailers as many have become helpless in the face of the social media attacks. Another leg of the argument is that the social media has played negative roles in Nigeria election as well inflicting pains on people and soiled their minds, and spread hate speeches that escalate religious and ethnic politics.
It is further argued that the social media is faced with serious professional issues such as gate keeping, scanty consideration on worthiness or unworthiness of news to publish, little concern for ethics, such as objectivity and fairness; accuracy in news gathering and information for dissemination.
No period was the negative roles of the social media more glaring than the recent crisis that engulfed Abia State which was occasioned by the face-off between members of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and soldiers on Operation Python Dance assignment in the state.
The social media nearly unleashed terror in the country by dishing out unverified information and photographs that were capable of sparking reprisal attacks on Ndigbo in the other parts of the country, especially the Northern parts.
What did not occur to the mastermind of these mischievous practices was that the media is strong nation builder and not destroyer; it is catalysts and not an inhibitor. The roles of the media, be it traditional or the new media, cannot be over-emphasised. The roles include carrying of ideas; presenting representative pictures of the society; classifying the values and goals of the society; monitoring the government and making it accountable to the people; informing, educating and entertaining the people; promoting the concepts of accountability, integrity, honesty, fairness and equity. Others are giving voice to the voiceless in the society; agenda setting ;fostering national unity and integration; promoting society’s culture and the moral value system; and promoting the sustainable national interests at all times.
On the other hand, every brand of the media is expected to respect the Nigerian Press Ethical Codes of Conduct which are the respect for the truth; the respect for the freedom of the individual; the respect for constituted authorities; avoidance of publication of bad taste in language and pictures; avoidance of libel and sedition; avoidance of malicious publication; not promoting sectional interest; not settling personal quarrels on the pages of newspapers and airwaves, among others.
Apart from the soldiers/IPOB clash, it is worthy to note here that there has been a concerted effort by some people to use media spaces, especially the social media, to run down the administration of Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu by attacking his laudable policies, projects, and programmes.
The newsman is expected to discharge high degree of honesty in his presentation of news by according equal priority to a story dealing with his favourite (if there should be any) and his presumed enemy so to speak.
On the other hand, news and propaganda are strange concepts. News is sacrosanct because it deals with truth and nothing but the truth, but” propaganda, according to Adams and Stratton” is the name given to any organized attempt to influence public thinking or actions “.
The public repose a lot of confidence and trust in the media and this should not be abused. Similarly, the media owes the public the duty to educate them and educate them properly; and not deceiving them, as the bits of information people gather from the media make them aware of the world around them and build their stock of incidental knowledge, which enhances their living.
This can only be achieved when media men make “objectivity” their watchword in the discharge of their duties. Objectivity is a cardinal ethical issue in journalism and it expects a writer or reporter to detach himself from the news report by telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Objectivity further tasks the reporter not to report events in a way that reflects the reporter’s attitude about events and people involved in the story. By this, a reporter or writer is not expected to express his own feelings, biases or prejudices.
Also, objectivity expects a reporter or writer to “depersonalise” the story by not overtly expressing his views, evaluations or beliefs, and to balance his story. The ethical issue of balance vests the reporter or writer with the responsibility of presenting the sides of the parties involved in the story. And by the standards of the new principle of objectivity, even when the sides of the stories are presented, the reporter or writer is expected to launch further investigations, analyse and interpret issues, where necessary.
The argument here is that the parties who offered their angles to the story may be talking from the point of bias and that if you allow your reading public to judge, they may be misinformed because the parties to the story may talk from the point of bias and their submissions cannot be relied on.
On this note, while commending the efforts of Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu in bringing the situation under control, there is a strong and passionate appeal to the public, especially Abians, to always carry out a cross check on social media contents and not to absorb them hook, line and sinker.
– Ukegbu writes from Lagos