Group picture of participants at the Southwest training workshop for Online journalists and bloggers organized by International Press Centre held in Abeokuta on Tuesday

ABEOKUTA – Against the growing perception that online media and social media platforms are the major harbingers of hate speech, communication experts have advised media practitioners to always embrace conflict sensitive reporting as solutions to curb the menace of inciting speeches in Nigeria.

The Director of International Press Centre, Nigeria, Mr. Lanre Arogundade gave the advice on Tuesday at a Two-day training workshops organised by International Press Centre through the European Union support (EU) under Component 4b: Support to the Media of the European Union Support for Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) project for Online Journalists/Bloggers in the South-West on Conflict Sensitive Election Reporting held in Abeokuta, Ogun-State capital.

Arogundade submitted that, online media contributed to the shrinking political violence in some parts of the country, saying journalists and bloggers must remove hate narratives from political communication as a way of making the electoral environment healthier.

Speaking on the forthcoming general elections in Nigeria, the country director of IPC urged online journalists to imbibe the principles of fairness, diversity and objectivity in reporting the electoral process and the elections.

He noted that, the expectation of the workshops was that the online media would be used as a platform for fair, balanced, language sensitive and conflict sensitive reporting of the elections.

“Perception aside, there is also some evidence that hate speech actually flourishes in the online environment. It is believed that this is contributing to the shrinking of the political space for the inclusive participation of women and vulnerable groups in the electoral process and elections, as well as the political and governance structure in Nigeria.

“In general, it is feared that in the realm of politics, violent conflict during elections could occur if online journalism practitioners and bloggers refuse to embrace conflict sensitive principles.

“The emerging consensus therefore is that online journalists and bloggers need to strive to do better so they could be part of efforts that seek to remove hate narratives from political communication as a way of making the electoral environment healthier.”

Also speaking, Dr. Nathaniel Danjibo of Institute of Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ibadan submitted that, conflict sensitive journalism was the practice of writing news stories about a conflict in a way that does not worsen the situation by adding inflammatory language and seeking out ideas about how the conflict can be resolved.

Dr. Danjibo argued that, conflict sensitive journalism empowers online media professionals to report conflict without adding flames to the degenerated crisis.

He highlighted accuracy, impartiality, balancing, and responsibility as hallmarks of good journalism.

He therefore enjoined online journalists and bloggers to embrace peace journalism as media ethics that transforms conflict from their violent channels into constructive forms by conceptualizing news, empowering the voiceless and seeking common grounds that unify rather than dividing human societies.

In his own presentation, the Dean, College of Social and Management Sciences, Caleb University, Imota, Professor Nosa Owens-Ibie said online journalists must understand what constitutes a communication challenges and distinguish between conflict, hate speech and fake news before publishing stories online.

Prof. Nosa who spoke on the topic “Understanding Communication Challenges In The Age of Conflict, Hate Speech and Fake News” described hate speech as I’m matured, insensitive and mischief of speech intended to demean another person or group or to worsen conflict.

He added that hate speech triggers fake news and conflict with collateral damage which include distrust, fear, violent conflict and development crises.

Others speakers include;  The assistant news editor, Voice of Nigeria (VON)  and Chairman Lagos NUJ Council, Dr. Qasim Akinreti, The Ogun NUJ Chairman, Comrade Wole Shokunbi among others.

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