Covid-19: Gov Okowa’s EAC Advises Social Media Influencers, Media Aides Not To Play Politics With The Pandemic.
…Says Plans In The Making For 2nd Edition of Strategic Communication Capacity Building Workshop.
Media Aides to politicians and social media influencers in Delta State and by extension Nigeria, have been advised never to play politics with Covid-19 pandemic.
Executive Assistant on Communications to the Governor of Delta State, Dr Fred Oghenesivbe gave the advise during a Public Affairs programme aired by Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, Asaba, South-South Nigeria.
He said Covid-19 pandemic media and information management is too sensitive and therefore cannot be accommodated in the realm of speculation, rumour and political propaganda, pointing out that, it amounts to disservice to the human race to play politics with the spread of a deadly public health issue such as corona virus currently raving the world.
He noted that misinformation and fake news have the capacity and force to trigger public outrage and breach of peace, as was the case recently in some parts of the United Kingdom where citizens damaged communication installations and properties while reacting negatively to fake news associated with the proposed G5 network and Covid-19 pandemic.
Oghenesivbe who is also a Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and member, International Communication Association, ICA, warned that linking Covid-19 to G5 network is neither here nor there, adding that the claim is misleading and mere figment of imagination of speculators.
“It must be stated that science and technology experts are yet to issue position papers declaring G5 network a health hazard and major source of corona virus pandemic.
“Fake news, rumours and baseless speculations must be avoided in the dissemination of information concerning corona virus cases. It is important to share or publish verified information, facts and figures, going forward.
“Politicising the pandemic has the capacity and propensity of sensationalizing falsehood and by extension capable of creating fears that may lead to public distrust on the activities of health professionals and institutions saddled with the responsibility of containing, preventing and eradicating the virus.
“Media Aides and social media influencers must of necessity and as responsible stakeholders in nation building abstain from spreading fake news. They must not politicise Covid-19 pandemic because the deadly virus does not discriminate against membership of political parties.
“It is very important for media practitioners generally to adhere strictly to World Health Organization, WHO, guidelines on preventive measures and information management. The world heath body advised world leaders, citizens and governments not to politicise Covid-19 and distribution of health materials and palliatives,” Oghenesivbe added.
And on government censorship of social media, the celebrated and multiple award winning strategic political communication expert said; the federal government and law makers should relax their proposed draconian legislation.
He said what is required is for media, information and communication managers in public and private sectors to be proactive and swift in responding to misinformation, fake news, blackmail and propaganda.
Okowa’s EA Communications further posited that rather than enact new laws, governments and the private sectors should remove information flow bottlenecks, unnecessary bureaucracy and engage reasonable numbers of communication professionals to respond swiftly to fake news and other mischievous strategies in information dissemination via the mass media.
He said social media has come to stay as a global phenomena with far reaching effects due to it’s world wide web connectivity, adding that it will be a herculean task to effectively and efficiently police the activities of social media influencers.
“Correctional Centres and or Police Cells may not be able to accommodate defaulters and violators if enforcement is total. Again, new enactments may fracture some provisions in our constitution and media laws on press freedom, citizens freedom of speech and role of the press as the watchdog of society in nation building.
“Therefore, it is safe to assert that one of the viable options and or solutions to manage fake news, blackmail and misinformation is for media and information managers as well as news gatekeepers in government and private sectors to be proactive, respond swiftly to counter mischievous news by putting the records straight, present facts and figures without ambiguities.
“In Delta State, government is up and doing in terms of information and media management, such that mischief makers are kept where they truly belong. We operate a multifaceted media, information and communication structure that is difficult to puncture through misinformation, fake news, blackmail and propaganda.
“My humble and sincere advise to media practitioners especially social media influencers is that they should abhor blackmail for money or for whatever reasons, don’t peddle rumours and do not share or publish unverified information.
“However, counter propaganda and diversionary tactics in propaganda and misinformation management is ideal and strongly recommended.
“Reasonable number of social media influencers and media aides within the system are doing well because of the training and in-house media policy put in place to enhance performance and standards.
“In 2019, the Office of the EA Communications to the Governor, organised a three day capacity building workshop for social media influencers, media appointees and Chief Press Secretaries to Local Government Chairmen in the state. Head of Mass Communication at Delta State University, Abraka, Prof Godwin Oboh, was the Chief Trainer.
“The workshop shaped and sharpened the creative writing skills and capacities of the participants which is why social media influencers in the state are adjudged the best in the country. However, there are some folks who could not attend the capacity building workshop in 2019.
“We shall organise another communication workshop this year to enable us build on the achievements of the 2019 edition, and we shall accommodate more social media influencers, media appointees and few persons from the mainstream media.
“Participants will benefit greatly from the professional expertise of experienced facilitators and trainers.
“The workshop will further address and reduce incidents of fake news, misinformation and propaganda,” Oghenesivbe assured.