Since the advent of social media and its eventual embrace by the billions of people across the world over, the paradigm of communication has shifted from the traditional one-way of disseminating information to a two or multiple ways. Thus, the curve has now turned upside-down and inside-out.
This new trend has created an increased velocity of audience reach than there was in the traditional media. Leveraging on that, the social media users now generate their contents and disseminate same to their avalanche of readers.
As a result, competition seems to have ensued over who says what and what is said of who. There came the issue of over-egging the pudding with a lot of incendiary contents and utterances that spew hate, instigate violence and provoke an individual or nation against another.
This is where the point of divergence and difference between responsible, junk and jaundiced journalism could be found.
However, apparently perturbed by such rampaging menace especially among the youth, Gidado Shuaib, the publisher of Youth Digest magazine, organised an award to recognise student journalists who have dedicated their prowess (both on traditional and social media) to preach tolerance and peaceful co-existence among the youth.
According to Mr Shuaib, the event was also organized to highlight the dangers of hate speech among the youth.
On hand to address such raging menace of hate speech on social media was the publisher of the PREMIUM TIMES newspaper, Dapo Olorunyomi, who spoke on the ways of ‘Curbing Hate Speech on Social Media’ during the award ceremony in Abuja.
The award ceremony was well attended by the presidency officials, retired and serving military officers, foreign envoys, PR gurus, students and parents who came to identify with the awardees as well as the convener, who is a 22-year-old son of a renowned Public Relations czar, Yushau Shuaib.
In his presentation, Mr Olorunyomi, said that the first condition for journalism practice is a declaration and subsequent commitment to accuracy and truthfulness.
Mr Olorunyomi, who has been a victim of several arrests and alleged persecutions by security operatives for publishing contents that reportedly go against the norm, said that his knack for fact-checking before publishing any content has always vindicated him.
He therefore emphasized that ethics is the distinguishing factor in the practice of serious and citizen journalism.
“Verification and fact-checking are the greatest challenges of our time, hence the need to train ourselves on how to very, fact-check information before disseminating same.
“In this instance, verification of any story item is of the essence, especially when it has to do with sensitive topics that could spark of animosity between two parties, or national discord,” he added.
Mr Olorunyomi, however, said that hate speech is not only synonymous with social media, adding that it could be found everywhere and in any other medium of communication.
“Hate speech has high tendency to crop into social media than it has in other traditional and new media because the gate-keeping role in traditional media is relegated to the background in the social media,” he said.
According to him, while a mere algorithm interfaces with the former, a gate-keeper is mostly found in the latter.
The publisher noted that Journalism has a constitutional role just like any other constitutionally recognised agency that its existence is entrenched in national or international treaties and statutes.
He therefore called on the government agencies who are working hard to suppress hate-speech in our social media space to have a rethink, stressing that the solution does not lie in repression.
“To the government agencies who are working hard to suppress hate-speech in our social media space, I think the greatest remedy to hate-speech is more speeches to repress the preponderance of hate. The solution is not repression,” he stressed.
He also called on both the traditional and new media to strive hard to be credible, saying: “Any journalism platform that lacks credibility is at the same time lacking integrity because the two go hand in hand.”
Mr Olorunyomi further pointed out that journalism is not among the highly paid jobs in Nigeria but it is the central pillar of democracy. “It explores the truth. It is the search for truth and accountability. It is part of the making of modernity. It has come to stay,” he added.