Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun Monday disagreed with calls for death sentence for those who abuse the use social media as a tool for information dissemination.
Rather the Governor said that the proposed social media law before the National Assembly should not be seen as targeting or gagging the critical media or curtail free speech. Instead, he said, the law should be seen as a way to hold citizen journalists to account and make them responsible for their reports.
The Governor bemoaned the rise of malicious and deliberate misinformation by some unethical social media users. He said they put the information superhighway to wrong uses by targeting other Nigerians – high and lowly placed – for character assassination and portray people in bad light.
Governor Abiodun revealed these at the 160th celebration of the birth of journalism in Abeokuta. The the theme of the anniversary lecture was: “Re-inventing the practice of journalism in Nigeria with emphasis on the influence of the social media”.
The Ogun State helmsman, however said the call for death penalty in the bill is however uncalled for.
“We have to find a win-win situation. The idea is not to gag the media in any form or manner, but to ensure that the media is held responsible for carrying out their responsibility; and of cause, the issue of death penalty is not called for,” he said.
Abiodun also added that the deliberate misinformation on people by some unscrupulous elements have prompted reactions from some quarters of the country who he were pushed to call for death penalties for people found guilty of deliberately misinforming the people.
He charged veterans of the profession not to only play their role of informing the people, but to also ensure that they play their role as elders by monitoring the younger generation of journalists.
“This has prompted a lot of reactions from different quarters”, Governor Abidoun added “with some even calling for death penalties for people who are found guilty of what has now become popularly referred to as the ‘Hate Speech’.
He urged, veteran journalists to use the celebration to appraise the influence of the social media on journalism practice. As elders, he said older journalists should play their role as elders “by monitoring the activities of the younger professionals, this will go a long way in repositioning the pen pushing as truly the fourth estate of the realm in the democratic system,” he said.
The governor urged members of the noble profession to always be on their guard against forces that seek to use them for their selfish interests, saying that it is important for the profession to distance itself from partisanship.
He urged the veterans of the profession to also continue to ensure that professionalism and unity among professionals and use the profession as a catalyst for continued human capital development, adding that journalists must also strive for continued professional development so as to keep abreast of the best practices in the profession.
“It is therefore imperative that journalists as professionals should always be on their guard against forces that seek to take advantage of the formidable power of the profession for their selfish aims. It has even become more important that the profession divest itself from partisanship, ensure objectivity in reportage and inculcate investigative journalism”, he said.
“One major avenue of achieving these is for veterans in the pen pushing profession to ensure that professionalism and unity among professionals and use the profession as a catalyst for continued human capital development, you must also strive for continued human capital development, you must also strive for continued professional development so as to keep abreast of best global practices in the industry,” he said.
Abiodun also affirmed the readiness of his administration to continue to remain open to all genuine collaborations from individuals and corporate organizations, assuring that the present administration in the state would continue to leave the door open for more collaboration and positive contribution to the development of the state.
In his remark, the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo who described journalism as a profession for the highly intellectual-minded people said the profession have no room for drop outs.
He lauded the media for contributing to the socio-political development of the country, adding that the town being the cradle of journalism has produced first-class professionals through various media outfits that domiciled in the Abeokuta.