Can Nigerian media support sustainable democracy?
A good fundamental of sustainable democracy is election. More than anything it helps representation and aggregation of voices toward a better and informed policy. In addition, elections also help in consensus building. More than any other industry, media plays a vital role in raising conversation around accountability for a transparent and open society.
In any sustainable democracy, there are very clear role of media here. Some of these are to help inform, educate electorate in making better choices as well as holding accountable every actor: especially the election umpire as well as politicians who mainly may have ulterior motives.
The level of misinformation and fake news are on the rise. It will take thorough professionals to distance themselves as well as push the right button for openness, verifiable and balanced information to be displayed. The challenge today is that fake news and misinformation is easier to produce and spread. This is being aided by digital platforms whose owners do not have the required requisites to practice or are just engaged in pure mischievousness
Given the above challenges, and knowing the speed at which fake news and misinformation will continue to fly as Nigerians enter its season of political campaigns in preparation for 2023 election, what can Nigeria media space do? Here I can only offer few suggestions
A deliberate fight against disinformation: We must appreciate the establishment of fact checking organizations and its rise in Nigeria, but it appears Nigeria(ns) is still scratching the surface. Misinformation and disinformation can truly destroy whatever the country may be trying to build. The challenge of disinformation and misinformation is global and not peculiar, but where the major actors thrive more on secrecy is a danger signal to all. The government of the day also cannot keep quiet where it is not necessary.
Lots of collaboration: Nigeria media industry must collaborate with a mission to ensure misinformation and fake news are reduced to the barest minimum. Fighting and winning the war for sustainable democracy will not be an easy one. It will take a village as the politicians have become more ingenious with regards to spreading ethnic and religious chants.
Interestingly, many of the Nigeria media houses up until recently had not seen collaboration as a necessity. Each wants to be seen as industry leader with their shortcomings very obvious to all.
A social contract: This has become a necessity. While it may not be an established law, media must have a social contract that is binding and can propel adherence to professionalism and accountability. Being accountable and ready to serve unbiased truth will help the present fragile democracy.
A commitment to Political Ads transparency: media in most times, because of hard times, tacitly promote and package lies as truth just to meet their financial need. “Dangerous season requires dangerous approach”’ has become the slogan of the day. If lies are packaged as truth, the media should know it operates within the system and it will suffer at the long run.
A demand for financial accountability form actors: All sorts of financial accountability issues are often overlooked by the media with regards to how politicians generate and spend money in their political campaigns. Everyone knows there is a cap on what can be raised and what can be spent. But many of the actors, including the media often overlook this.
Yes, it is on record that media platforms are not the cause of the fractured and corrupt systems that plague Nigeria political system and that economic logics continue to support a need to make even at the expense of what is right. But the challenges and aftermath of these are obvious: a country gradually losing its relevance. This omission apart from the above is also the foundation of divisions and ethnic biases which had become commonplace in Nigeria.
Meaningful competition: Whatever happens, media must ensure electorates are exposed to meaningful and healthy alternatives. The game should not be those who play the piper dictate the tunes or that the pendulum of exposure must be given to prominent candidates with heavy pocket. As long as this philosophy is promoted, Nigeria and Nigerians will continue to suffer untold hardship.
While we know there is unwritten law which is known as ‘the politics and survival strategy of the press’ which many observed in their operations, Nigeria needs its media industry to become more disciplined and principled as this is only country many have. An injury to one is an injury to all. So it is not a case of can Nigeria media support a sustainable democracy, it is more of will it?
Nigeria media need to know and understand the impact and how the newsroom shape opinion and political landscape. Playing or holding such responsivity with a left hand can be catastrophic.
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