Updated: March 4, 2021
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday delivered a strong warning to journalists who continue to see themselves as “professional journalists”, reminding them that they were gradually becoming irrelevant.
President Buhari, who was born 76 years ago when news could mainly be found on hard newspapers or analog radio stations, told traditional journalists in Nigeria that the digital space was fast replacing them.
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“Your profession today is undergoing a fundamental shift. For better or worse, the digital space is now becoming the major outlet for ‘news’,” Mr Buhari said when he received a delegation of the Nigerian Union of Journalists led by Mr Chris Isiguzo at the State House, according to a statement the presidency sent to TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C.
The Nigerian leader said through the digital platform, digital journalists are able to reach millions of people.
He admitted that the digital space was, however, “difficult to regulate and police”, adding that “in many instances, the participants in this medium are not trained or professional journalists”.
Mr Buhari said the biggest threat facing journalism today is the threat of credibility, especially by the online media.
“I am sure you will all agree that the biggest threat to the sustainability and credibility of your profession is the uncontrolled and unregulated news platforms operating in the cyber space”.
The President claimed that some misleading information in the social media were created and posted by people who lived outside the country.
“Many of the perpetrators of these acts do not even live within our shores. However, they have been able to damage the reputation of hard working Nigerian journalists while at the same time promoting conflict and divisions within our society,” he said, according to a statement the presidency sent to TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C.
President Buhari urged members of the Nigerian Union of Journalists to “support” his government in devising a means to control the spread of false information, warning that those who “create alternative reality’’ on social media are steadily eroding the credibility of journalism.
In a way, Mr Buhari seemed to confuse online journalism with social media platforms where everyone is allowed to tweet. In the digital age where the sharing of information has been democratized, many non journalists like President Buhari often associate tweeting or posting messages on Facebook with doing the job of a journalist who reports facts but can also guide with informed opinions.
He assured Nigerians that his administration will in the next four years pursue inclusive and transparent policies that will guarantee security and economic safety of every citizen.
“As I look to the next four years, I will remain committed to a safe and secure nation; creating an inclusive and diversified economy; and a governance system that is free of corrupt practices. In all these areas, we will remain transparent in implementing our policies.’’
President Buhari commended Nigerian journalists for the effective coverage of the 2019 elections, pointing that many, out of patriotism, went beyond their call of duty and took risks to ensure full and balanced reporting of the election, assuring the NUJ that security agencies will do their best to protect journalists, especially in hostile environments.
In his remarks, the President of the NUJ, Mr Chris Isiguzo, congratulated the President on winning the 2019 Presidential Elections, attributing the victory to his integrity and commitment to the development of the nation.
Isiguzo said the union was concerned by the growing number of media casualties in Nigeria, and across the continent, in carrying out their duties, urging Federal and State governments to take effective measures in protecting journalists.
‘‘Sir, we also wish to encourage your administration to evolve better ways of impacting positively on the lives of Nigerians who feel marginalized from the mainstream of Nigeria’s social, economic and political activities,’’ the NUJ president said.