By Rose Onda
Gov. Yahaya Bello of Kogi, on Friday, said that ”a truly free and vibrant press is more powerful than the three traditional Arms of government combined.”
Bello made the statement on Friday night, at the opening session of the 29th edition of the Nigerian Media Merit Award (NMMA), at Government House, Lokoja.
According to Bello, modern society cannot do without journalists as they were helping to bring order to society and engender human cooperation.
”A truly free and vibrant press is more powerful than the three traditional Arms of government combined.
”In fact, the world would be a scary and dark place without the mavens who collect, curate and communicate information in a timely and responsible manner.
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”In so doing, they dispel falsehood, eliminate dangerous assumptions and provide societies with the basic premise upon which governance and other decisions can be made,” the governor said.
He, however, noted that lives and whole societies had been ruined by the irresponsible practice of journalism by some media practitioners, or quacks who impersonated them.
The governor stressed that the use of the tools of the journalists’ trade to deal in hate speech had set off many on fire which ultimately consumed whole polities and their people.
”Fake news is ubiquitous nowadays, whether it is rumour-mongering, dangerous innuendos, character assassination or other forms of inaccurate reportage.
”The problem is so endemic that in Q3 2020 alone, statistics showed that there were 1.8 billion engagements with fake news on Facebook alone! Nigeria, like many countries, has fallen victim to it many times, sometimes with devastating loss of lives or properties.
”The Press is, therefore, one of the inescapable hallmarks of modern society and in particular, the custodians of public perception. What a divine responsibility!
”However, the Press is useful only to the extent that it functions within the ambits of verity and veracity and in line with demands of propriety. It must regulate itself with the help of the Law to avoid malfunctioning,” he said.
Bello stressed that practitioners must recognise that as a result of the incredible powers which society had entrusted to them, there should be a corresponding exhibition of responsibility, ethics and professionalism in the exercise of those powers by journalists.
He added: ”Necessity is, therefore, laid on the real journalists to stand up and be counted when it comes to taking back their profession from the quacks and the hacks, specifically the myriad of unregulated persons armed with Internet-enabled devices who haunt the media space, especially social media.
”These malicious persons wreck lives and reputations by the millions simply because someone paid them, or because they have real or imagined grouse against an individual or institution. Worse, they proceed without a care in the world because no one regulates them.”
He, therefore, enjoined the NMMA as the most important institution to reward merit in the way individuals and media houses practice journalism, while providing critical motivation for the real journalists to do their work professionally.
”In this way, the NMMA will help to promote sanity in the industry and simultaneously function as an accountability partner for most professional journalists,” the governor said.
”We are indeed proud to partner with you to deliver the NMMAs in this 31st year of the NMMA Trust.
”Even after now, we will commit to help move forward this laudable objective of recognising and rewarding merit-based media practice.
”I assure you that since we came to office and as we match towards 2023, we have given ourselves the task of rediscovering and reawakening that promise of a great, functional and egalitarian Nigeria.
”I promise you that we will do our very best, by the grace of Almighty God, to restore to Nigeria a vision and a pathway, call it a ‘New Direction’, to reach her full potential, kickstarted here so many years ago.
”Lokoja, Kogi state, is the safest place you can be and I urge everyone to relax and have fun without any fear,” Bello said.
Rev. Dr. Paul Frank, who spoke on ”Building religious tolerance”, commended the governor for providing a level playing ground for all religions to thrive in the state.
Frank said that the Kogi state Religious Council was proud of the governor for his spiritual and financial support to all religious bodies in the state, stressing that his spirit to build a befitting Chapel at Government House, was a resounding testimony, in spite of being a Muslim.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that a special multimedia presentation tagged ”Kogi State Today”, on Gov. Yahaya Bello’s administration and achievements was screened at the event.
The multimedia presentation showcased the unprecedented achievements of Bello’s administration in security, education, health, infrastructure, agriculture, women and youth empowerments, revenue generation, among others. (NAN)