Promote news literacy, professional journalism, NBC tells FG

Mallam Is’haq Modibbo-Kawu, news literacy
Mallam Is’haq Modibbo-Kawu

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) on Tuesday called on the Federal Government to intensify efforts at promoting news literacy and strong professional journalism in the country.

The Director-General of NBC, Mallam Is’haq Modibbo-Kawu, made the call at the 2019 Annual World Human Rights Day organised by the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Lagos Branch.

Modibbo-Kawu, who was represented Dr Chibuike Vincent, Zonal Director of NBC, Lagos, delivered a lecture on “The Role of the Media in Promoting Human Rights and Curbing Fake News in a Democratic Setting”.

The event was themed: “Criminalisation of Rights to Freedom of Speech and Expression as Enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution”.

The Director-General noted that fake news and sophisticated disinformation campaigns were especially problematic in a democratic system.

According to him, there is a growing debate on how to address the issue without undermining the benefits of digital media.

Modibbo-Kawu said: “It is therefore important that all stakeholders – government, business and consumers of news, work together to solve these problems.

“Government should promote news literacy and strong professional journalism in society. The news industry must provide high-quality journalism in order to build public trust and correct fake news and disinformation without legitimising them.

“Technology companies should invest in tools that identify fake news, reduce financial incentives for those who profit from disinformation and improve online accountability.

“Educational institutions should make informing people about news literacy a high priority. Individuals should follow a diversity of news sources and be sceptical of what they read and watch.”

He said that the NBC was saddled with the responsibility of ensuring broadcasters desist from promoting fake news via upholding the dissemination of quality content and materials for broadcast.

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The Director-General said: “Section 3.1.1. of the National Broadcasting Code says no broadcast shall encourage or incite to crime, lead to public disorder or hate.”

He explained how to differentiate hate speech from free speech, measures to be taken to counter hate speech while protecting free speech as well as the type of speech to be excluded from the media.

According to him, freedom of speech is key to development, dignity and fulfilment of every person and nation and it is necessary for good governance, economic and social progress and accountability.

He, however, said that the right to freedom of expression was not an absolute right and that the Federal Government might, under exceptional circumstances, restrict the rights under international human rights law.

“Media houses, however, appear to be using mediums like the internet, adverts and varying programmes to give rise to anti-public space, voicing hatred and essentialist discourse which has blurred the lines between hate speech and free speech.

“Simply put, hate speech is any expression of discriminatory hate towards people. The media has the responsibility of accurately labelling certain expression as ‘hate speech’.

“The media should condemn all propaganda and all organisations which proffer ideas or theories of superiority of one tribe or group of persons or one colour or ethnic origins,” he added.

He said that all forms of mass media should recognise that they had a moral and social responsibility to promote equality and non-discrimination for individuals with the broadest possible range of protected characteristics.