Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have called on the Federal Government to consider giving peace education adequate attention to tackle challenges of disunity, tension caused by fake news, disinformation and hate speech being spread through social media.
They made the call at a two-day Webinar on Building Media Information Literacy (MIL) Capacity for Youths and Students in Tertiary Institutions to promote peace, intercultural dialogue and democratic decision-making.
The webinar was organised by the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) with support from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.
According to Mr Chibuike Mgbeahuruike, International Relations Consultant of the centre, who made a presentation at the webinar, social media is a powerful tool.
He added that social media, whether it was perceived as inherently good or bad depended entirely on how it was used.
Mgbeahuruike said that by combining passion with the power of social media, one could make great gains in promoting peace among the masses.
“However, a peaceful social media interaction must be advocated before this can take place.
“In this wise, users must be sensitised to understand that as a social media user, they have the power to influence a lot of people with what they post.
“One of the major evils of social media in Nigeria is its potential to spread fake news and hate speech.
“Sometimes, video contents are manipulated to create another meaning or impression to users order than what it is.
“It is equally important to note that owing to the unrestricted nature of internet and social media, users without ethical standards and professionalism can use the tools to circulate misleading information.”
Mgbeahuruike said that such information could lead to a breach of peace and ignite violence.
He said that it was, therefore, important to educate users on the potential dangers around the use and misuse of social media adding that users needed to critically examine the contents.
He said that by choosing and reading the contents wisely, they could steer clear of any penitential social media danger zones and could effectually convey messages that promoted peace in the country.
Mgbeahuruike, therefore, called on stakeholders in the media to embark on peace advocacy projects through the platform.
He said that contents of the peace education should include the creation of awareness and how user-generated content could either ignite war or build peace.
He added that citizens would act more responsibly and exhibit patience and tolerance in their quest for peace, unity and stability that were a sine qua non to development if they were well informed.
Another presenter, Dr Sarah Lwahas, said that many people struggled to cope with the multitude of options and pitfalls of the digital age and few made active choices to carefully sift the contents of such information products.
Lwahas said it therefore made it imperative that citizens were able to find new ways to consciously participate and shape the flow of information in ways that affected their lives.
She added that a fundamental concern of Media Information Literacy (MIL) was the need to enlighten and empower people with the needed competencies and critical thinking skills for accessing suitable media information sources.
She said that understanding MIL would increase the competence level of young people to create a more accurate and subtle understanding of other people.
She said that such would compel them to respect pluralism and avoid stereotypes as well as applying media content critically for citizen empowerment.
Mr Zubairu Atta, making his presentation, said that MIL placed before youths the ability to acquire requisite skillsets that would enable them to evaluate information and information sources to address misinformation or bias about internet messages and news.
“I am comfortable with the explanation of the concept for this webinar where it states that ‘Nigeria, a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society of over 180 million people has her share of the consequences of fake news/hate speech.
“This is reflected largely in the lack of tolerance, social understanding and cohesion among youths.’’
Atta said that it was therefore, important to empower citizens, particularly youths with the ability to see through the antics of the peddlers of fake news and hate speech.
Dr Chido Onumah, Coordinator AFRICMIL, said the centre was a pan-African centre that focused on media, information, research, advocacy and training.
Onumah said that AFRICMIL worked for the empowerment of students and youths by promoting media and information literacy with the objective of deploying the opportunity that new media and information technologies offered in tackling socio-economic issues.
He said that it aimed to promote media and information literacy as a key component in the enhancement of democracy and good governance.
He said that the webinar was part of AFRICMIL’s Political Education Project supported by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation aimed at training, empowering and galvanising the youth and students in tertiary institutions across the country.(NAN)