World Press Freedom Day: Experts harp on fact-checking, fairness

In commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day, journalism experts, including lecturers and media practitioners, have enjoined journalists to check their facts from independent sources and balance copies before publication.

This position was taken during a global interactive web chat and panel discussion organised by the United States Embassy in Abuja on Thursday.

World Press Freedom Day is observed annually on May 3. It aims at informing the global community that freedom of the press and freedom of expression are fundamental human rights.

The World Press Freedom Day was created by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1993.

Discussion

While discussing the role of a free press in an election, a journalism expert from the USA, Lucinda Fleeson, in a web chat, said journalists should “reach beyond candidates’ statements.”

“In an election, journalists should talk to other people especially independent people. A journalist should always have a balanced perspective too,” she said.

She urged journalists to be accurate in their reportage and avoid ‘making up’ information.

Ms Fleeson encouraged journalists to scrutinise the code of ethics of the Washington Post for proper guidance. She charged news organisations to sanction journalists engaged in plagiarism.

“Write in your own words, let your editors correct you,” she said.

Similarly, the moderator of the chat, Peter Clottey, said journalists should endeavour to fact check the sources of information.

“I usually fact check my information from three independent sources and experts. The results can challenge your credibility if you don’t confirm. Also, journalists should also build their capacity by developing themselves to help improve their journalistic skills,” he said.

Also speaking, the Editor-in-Chief, PREMIUM TIMES, Musikilu Mojeed, said accuracy, fairness and balance are the core elements of good journalism.

Mr Mojeed also urged journalists to explore the Freedom of Information Act in carrying out their duties.

He said the Act has given journalists or individuals the right to sue any government official or organisation that refuses to grant information requested.

UNESCO Event

At another event, the Director-General of United Nations Scientific Cultural Organisations (UNESCO), Audrey Azoulay, said it is essential for journalists to enjoy the freedom of expression.

According to her, about 99 journalists were killed in 2018.

“Press freedom requires a society where everyone has access to information,” she said.

The UNESCO event took place at Rockview Hotel (Royale) in Abuja.

Also, the National President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Christopher Isiguzo, said journalists must be given “utmost safety and freedom.”

He said the theme of this year’s celebration is based on the negative impact of fake news in the world.

Meanwhile, the publisher of PREMIUM TIMES, Dapo Olorunyomi, lamented the delay in the payment of journalists’ salaries, as well as the
poor welfare conditions of personnel in the industry.

He also said technology has been structured in such a way to check unverified information. He advised newsrooms to educate their reporters appropriately.

Also, the spokesperson of the Nigeria Police Force, Frank Mba, reassured journalists of a warm relationship between the media and the police.

He, however, asked “media operators to help eliminate conditions that will lead to conflict.”

He said journalists should help deal with fake news.

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