To ensure social cohesion and communal peace, media professionals and clerics have been advised to apply diplomacy in their reportage and sermons, so as to stem the tide of religious conflicts in Nigeria.
This was the high point of a communique issued after a roundtable discussion among religious leaders, journalists and media experts on Monday.
Tagged ‘Media Dialogue with Religious Leaders on Advancing Peace and Interreligious Dialogue in the Age of Social media,’ the event was held in Abuja by the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) in partnership with the National Orientation Agency (NOA).
The dialogue was aimed at advancing peace and harmony, and proper reportage of religious conflicts.
During the discussion, participants urged everyone to support the sanctity of human life and do nothing to promote acts of violence against humanity, including publishing discourses justifying religious intolerance and expressions dividing humanity during sermons.
The head, media and communication, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Aselemi Ibrahim, called for balance in reportage while condemning the concept of a single story, which he said fuels social unrest in Nigeria.
“The media has not been fair in the reportage of the religious crisis as a social responsibility. Religious reportage should be geared towards national cohesion while considering corporate existence of the nation,” Mr Ibrahim said.
In his doctoral thesis titled ‘The role of political, socioeconomic factors and the media in Nigeria’s interreligious conflict,’ Aliyu Musa said the reportage of the Jos religious violence in 2008 was biased in the representation of the north and south.
He noted that “newspapers are regionally, ethnically and religiously inclined. They are particularly affected by factors like ownership, location, staffing and audience perception, which determine how they tailor reports.”
Consequently, journalists were entreated to avoid the use of religious stereotypes in describing perpetrators of crimes in the society.
“Crimes should be reported the way they happened, and the religious background of the deviant be reported with less focus on his/her religion,” a NAN reporter, Angela Atabo, said.
The participants said it was the responsibility of the media to promote the value of friendship and mutual acceptance of others in co-existence.
They also called for interfaith cooperation, noting that there was a need for the leadership of Christian and Muslim groups to communicate their interests without inciting hatred.
Religious leaders were urged to be conscious of their expressions on social media while guiding their followers not to act on any castigating reports about their faith on social media.
On his part, the representative of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Paul Odeniyi, regretted the failure of some elite in bridging the social gaps and promoting peace.
He, however, urged the media which he described as the ‘opinion shaper’ to be conscientious in dealing with reporting conflicts.
He said the agency would continue to partner with the center to ensure a proper sensitisation of religious leaders.
Earlier in his address, the coordinator, AFRICMIL, Chido Onumah, noted that fears of religious conflicts breaking out in Nigeria could threaten peace and unity of the country if not checked.
To achieve this, he said, media and information literacy should be used as a tool to change the behaviour of “opinion moulders who are often religious leaders and media professionals.”
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