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2019 Elections: Avoid Fake News – Justice Oke Tells Journalists

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As the forthcoming 2019 Nigeria’s general elections are fast approaching, journalists in the country have been charged with the need to always adopt responsible news reporting and avoid fake news in order not to overheat the polity.

The Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Opeyemi Oke made this known on Wednesday at the 2018 Annual Lecture of the Ikeja branch of the National Association of Judiciary Correspondents (NAJUC), entitled, “The Role of Judiciary, Media in the 2019 Election”.

In her remarks, Justice Oke, who was represented by Justice Josephine Oyefeso while admonishing media practitioners to make sure they always embark on fair and unbiased coverage of the election, said “The need for responsible reporting to avoid fake news, cannot be overemphasized. We must take the good and jettison the bad.”

According to her, “The media acts as a watchdog with a duty to provide unbiased, fair and informative coverage of the 2019 elections.

“Responsible reporting of events must be the guiding principle of the media, apart from the electronic and print media, social media has also gained tremendous ground in this country.

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“In the last election, it played a vital role as a watchdog in the process of electioneering.

Speaking further, Justice Oke said while the judiciary must be ready and prepare to adjudicate over election matters either before or after elections, journalists must equally ensure they report court cases fairly and avoid prejudices, adding that they should avoid conducting trial on pages of newspapers.

“Judiciary Correspondents covering the various election petition proceedings that will be set up must report proceeding in an unbiased, fair and upright manner.

“When a case is under judgment the media must ensure that it does not interfere with the fair trial obligation of the court.

“Accuracy must be our watchword and you must ensure you do not compromise ongoing court proceedings bearing in mind that here are at least two sides to a story.

“We should not forget that lack of professionalism and objectivity may plunge the nation into crisis, we should never forget the events in Rwanda in 1994 and Kenya in 2007.”

Speaking in the same vein, the keynote speaker, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), said though Nigerian laws had provided sufficiently for press freedom, there is need for journalists to be adequately remunerated.

“The Nigerian press had been imbued with sufficient of freedom under our Constitution, and as such, there is no need to amend the Constitution to specifically provide for the independence of the press.

“For us to make any tangible progress in our quest for democratic stability, the Nigerian press has to be free from censorship by either the government, its operatives or proprietors of media outfits.

“For a journalist or pressman who is not gainfully employed, or who is under what economists call ‘disguised unemployment or who receives peanuts or nothing for his services from his employers, he cannot make any meaningful contribution to the either the 2018 general elections or the evolution of democracy.

“A hungry man cannot be a happy man, instead, he is bound to be an angry personality.”

Olanipekun added that it is imperative for Nigerians to show appreciation for the vital role of the press in every sphere of the nation.

Chief Olanipekun, who praised the role of the judiciary towards ensuring the sustainability of the country’s democracy, added that, “President Goodluck Jonathan honourably and commendably conceded defeat to President Muhammadu Buhari after the 2015 Presidential election.

“Nigerians have lost sight of the fact that the Presidential election of Saturday, Mar. 28, 2015, was only held because of the judicial intervention of Kolawole J., of the Federal High Court, Abuja Judicial Division.

“On Mar. 25, 2015, he granted a stay of proceedings in the pre-election matter brought against INEC.

“It was the judiciary that halted the Obasanjo administration’s penchant to sack, at its whims and caprices, and using coercive powers of State, any Governor of a state who was perceived to be an enemy of the Federal Government or the President.

“This started from the celebrated case of Inakoju vs Adeleke, through to Dapianlong vs.Dariye and Hon. Mike Balonwu vs Mr Peter Obi.

The former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) insisted that, “The truth be told, our democracy stands as perhaps the most monetised democracy globally.

“Across political parties and lines, notes are purchased at every stage of election.

“Apart from INEC and SEICs, political parties themselves should evolve to the status of institutions, if our democracy must last.

“Any political party worth its name must have clear-cut ideologies, policies, ethos, ethics and traditions which are engraved in the DNA of its members,” Olanipekun said.

The Lagos State Attorney-General of Lagos State, Adeniji Kazeem, said, “Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is committed to ensuring swift and fair administration of justice.

According to Kazeem, “Equally, the populace depend largely on professional reporting journalism and I must commend the members of this Association for attaining the required level of this societal obligation.

“As stakeholders here seated, it is therefore our collective responsibility as a society to continue to uphold fair, independent and accountable institutions to carry out its work in a responsible manner.

“The theme of this lecture is relevant as we draw closer to the election.

“Though the focus of today’s topic focuses on the judiciary and media, individually and within our respective institutions, we all have a role to play in the coming elections.”

Earlier in his address of welcome, the Ikeja branch chairman of NAJUC, Akinwale Akintunde, insisted that, “You will all agree with me that as the 2019 general elections draw near, and the widespread social media campaign for citizens to get their Permanent Voters Card intensifies, a number of people have a few questions on their lips.

“One of such questions is can we ever get it right in this country?

“The answer is yes but it can only happen when we all, particularly the media and the judiciary play our roles effectively.”

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