THE Coordinator of African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), Dr Chido Onumah has charged youths, religious and community leaders on peace building.
Onumah made the call on Wednesday at a workshop held to commemorate the 2022 UNESCO Global Media and Information Literacy Week in Abuja with the theme: ‘Capacity Building Workshop On Media And Information Literacy, Interreligious And Intercultural Dialogue’.
AFRICMIL engaged youths, religious and community leaders on a capacity building workshop with focus on peace building and social cohesion.
According to Onumah, the one-day workshop was organised to promote social cohesion and solidarity through Media and Information Literacy (MIL) and inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue amongst Nigeria’s diverse youths groups.
He noted that inadequate information and lack of proper communication about cultures, religions, diversity and individual rights have been a major challenge in Nigeria’s quest for progress as a nation.
“Political and religious actors and mischief makers who thrive on conflicts have continued to exploit the lack of MIL knowledge among a great majority of the citizens to deepen the fault lines by propagating messages of hate, extremism, misinformation and fake news.
“It’s no longer news that ours is a multi-ethnic society that is also, unfortunately, dangerously polarized along ethnic and religious lines. Therefore, more than ever before, we need now to quickly rouse from our slumber, so to speak, and address the situation before it gets out of hand,” Onumah said.
He added that AFRICMIL recognises the urgent need for citizens to be well informed, communicate better and take seriously issues that will bring about peaceful co-existence.
“AFRICMIL is keenly interested in empowering opinion leaders and young people in various communities with MIL competencies that will enhance their capacity to navigate the news media and the Internet with a view to addressing misinformation or bias about their own beliefs or those of others.
“We are certain that educating the youths properly by exposing them to Media and Information Literacy, which is mostly about the use of the media and the dynamics of information seeking, sharing and acceptance, will lead to increased awareness of the need to respect the rights of all humans as contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Act and the Nigerian Constitution,” he added.
Speaking on the use of media and information literacy to engage citizens and enhance social cohesion in the country, the Africa Polling Institute’s Director of Research and Institutional strengthening, Olugbenga Ogunmefun, noted that there is a record increase in the propagation of fake news through social media.
“There is cry out against the supposed social media laws, which some Nigerians have termed as anti-social, retrogressive and an effort to muzzle free speech. However, there is a record increase in the propagation of fake news which does a lot of damages, psychologically and emotionally, leaving in its wake assassinated characters and misinforming the people about government policies, programmes and actions.”
According to him, cyber-bullying, hate speech, misinformation and unverified news encourage disaffection, disharmony and lack of cohesion.
He, however, urged journalists to use information at their disposal for building and mending gaps.
“Journalists as the main drivers of media have a role to play in using the information at their disposal, not for a business transaction to the highest bidder by withholding valuable information, stifling adequate reportage of events and ad it has been the practice and being used by agents of the government to propagate one-sided information, but for building and mending bridges,” he added.
While bemoaning gender inequality in Nigeria, the Centre Communication Officer, Adedoyin Ojosipe, also enjoined community and religious leaders to allow females to enjoy the rights given to them by the Constitution.