By Tunde Oguntola |
A leading Mass Communication expert in Africa, Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye, has said that fake news, misinformation, false and distorted news material can only be controlled and not eliminated as they are not new phenomenon.
This is even as the don urged government and its agencies not to hoard information, saying ”information is power” and also an accelerator for national development.
Prof. Akinfeleye, who stated this during a book launch with the title: ‘Journalism, Communication and Society’ written to honour his academic eminence for his contribution to mass communication, yesterday in Abuja, urged government and politicians to see journalists as an agent of change.
According to him, “Fake news, misinformation and others have been in existence for a long time. We cannot completely eliminate fake news but we can control it, as far as I am concerned fake news started almost 128 years ago, it can be controlled but cannot be eliminated.
”Government should not hoard information, because information is power and also an accelerator and provocateur. Therefore, government agencies and politicians should see journalists as an agent of change.”
Analyzing the book with the title, ‘Journalism, Communication and Society, Prof Akinfeleye said the book carries the message of completeness.
“It talks about how journalism should be practiced, it addresses the areas of convergence. It dealt with the areas of journalism training, health communication and behavioral change communication as the title is Journalism, Communication and Society, those are the three major concepts of this book, one part is dealing with journalism other one is dealing with communication and the other part is dealing with society.
“So it is a compendium of three in one, and the authors have written excellently well to enlighten journalism practitioners and students about the need to know that information is power to national development. A section of the book also talks about press freedom to understand that for a meaningful democracy, you need a free press and in fact, the other name of democracy is free press and if you try to gag the press, it cannot work,” he said.
He noted that another part of the book deals with the need to bridge the gap between ”town and gown”.
“You all will know that in the immediate past, the classrooms were way ahead of the newsroom, but nowadays, it is the opposite to the extent that the newsrooms are way ahead of the classrooms to the extent that when we train our students and you employed them, they have to undergo three months or even nine months training after getting a Bachelor’s degree from us, that is unacceptable to us as trainers, so there is a need for convergence were practitioners will come to the classroom and the lecturers will go to the newsroom,” he added.
The book reviewer, acting director general, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Prof Armstrong Idachaba, said the book which is an intellectual product of seasoned communication scholars from different communication disciplines focuses on journalism education, media and society, health communication, broadcasting, politics and regulation, digital communication as well as communication policy.
Idachaba said based on the quality of contributions, the book is going to be one of the powerful reference materials on media, society and culture in Nigeria, Africa and the world.
He said, “The book’s theoretical and empirical underpinning in offering practical solutions to communication challenges is quite central to our democratic aspiration for development and sustainability. The book’s methodological approach will to a larger extent add value to empirical investigation and scholarship in Nigeria.
“The first part of the book focuses on journalism education and curriculum. This aspect of communication scholarship is foundational because it is where development ideals are integrated and streamlined in the curriculum to suit the developmental aspirations of any nation.
“The book came at a time when the mass communication field is undergoing evolutionary fermentation in the aspect of curriculum development, specialization, and training to suit the global best practices. We are all living witnesses about NUC’s unbundling project to meet the present realities courtesy of MacArthur Foundation’s grant to Bayero University, Kano.
“Aside from the local content need, the book had critically looked at media production and distribution in relation to the existential ontological dichotomy between journalism theory and practice.
“The dichotomy is rooted from disparity in the worldviews and experiential stand of classroom and newsroom as what is taught in classes largely differs from what is practiced in newsrooms in the context of ICT utilization.
“One of the ways out is to strengthen collaborative relationships among all stakeholders and to merge or acquire some weaker communication training institutions for optimal service delivery”, he explained.
On the weaknesses or gaps of the book, Prof Idachaba said there are several contemparenous disruptions in the Nigerian media that ought to be examined.
He said, ”The reform of the broadcast industry majorly undertaken by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, some of which our celebrated icon offered his expertise and wisdom, leading to revolutionary changes in promoting local content, protecting the local industry, checking monopolistic tendencies, boosting the local advert industry.
“Proactive action on hateful and inciting comments and destructive fake news. Another is the resuscitation of the DSO project and the roll out of the project to major Nigerian cities. The DSO offers new vistas into the potential of technology and the gains of the media.
“An obvious gap perhaps is in the interrogation of existing media laws and regulation for both the print and electronic, there is need to review judicial interventions in the process and how they construct or deconstruct existing theories of mass communication,” he said.
On his part, former governor of Ogun State, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, said Prof Akinfeleye must surely have his own story to tell.
He said: ”At least we celebrate him in his lifetime. But his own story told by himself should enrich scholarship. And we think that should also make a good read.
”He should write a book, like Babatunde Jose, Alade Odunewu. Biodun Shobanjo’s The Will to Win has just been launched. Akinfeleye, for his eminence, must not pass like Jakande who translated the invaluable library with him.”
Osoba who is the chairman of the Governing Council of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism said he had achieved distinction as a mentor of budding journalists.
”He has quite some fans among the old brigades. Prof Akinfeleye is perhaps the most prominent of his kind in recent times. He is not an armchair scholar. He has laurels to show for field and gown integration,” he added.