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Monday, 6 August 2012


David Alachenu Mark is the Senate President of Nigeria.

A salient attribute which is so well known to be an inherent part of David Mark both within and without his military Profession is his knack for honesty and 'saying it as it is' tendency not minding whose ox is gored.

In his capacity as the current senate President, David Mark is noted for making some remarks that some persons who may not have the temperament to read through the said statements, as controversial. Most people believe that David Mark's middle name is controversy.

On July 26th 2012 in Umuahia, the Abia State Capital, the Senate President took the opportunity of the retreat program of the Senate media team drawn from diverse media houses across the country to raise alarm about the unethical and unprofessional activities of some persons who are making bad use of the social media to slander/libel and defame some persons in and out of government.

The Senate President also canvassed the strict observance and adherence to the professional ethical code by media practitioners. But shortly after he delivered his speech, some media houses reported that the Senate President has canvassed that the noose be tightened around the use of the new social media in Nigeria. 

But on the ethical question raised by David Mark, the Senate President, on the abuse of the social media by most untrained minds, I think his position is sound, qualitative, objective and should therefore not be dismissed as canvassing for tighter laws on use of social or new media in Nigeria similar to what obtains in China and places like Iran or even Saudi Arabia.

The Senate President stated thus; “The emergence of social media like facebook, twitter, blackberry messenger, YouTube have changed the face of media practice by making information sharing easier, faster and quicker. But this is not without its demerits. Social media has become a threat to the ethics of media practice and good governance because of its accessibility and absolute freedom. Every freedom carriers a responsibility. Even in advanced democracies, where we all agree that good governance is practiced, there is no absolute freedom.”

He spoke further; “I therefore believe that there must be a measure to check the negative tendencies of the social media in our country. I say this because media practice, particularly journalism, the process f its news gathering and dissemination also operates a feedback mechanism and where the practitioners err there is room for rebuttal. But in the social media a faceless character can post any information that is absolutely false and misleading but will never retract it. At the end of the day one is bombarded with questions over what one has no business with.”

David Mark suggested a simple solution thus; “I suggest that schools of mass communication and journalism should review their curricula to include the operations of social media.”
He candidly condemned media corruption and canvassed global best practices.

As a journalist who has actively practiced for about two decades, I know that the fear expressed therein by the Senate President is germane and factual and it behooves on media workers to clean up our acts and resolve to be ethically correct in our journalism activities.

I will be among the persons that would stoutly oppose any subtle moves through legislative process to muzzle or scuttle press freedom and we are prepared to go out on the streets to protest vehemently.

 I think trained media professionals are also as concerned as any right thinking person that there is absolute need for ethics to be observed in the use of the new or social media.

The problem is that new or social media has made it possible for untrained minds to become major actors in the dissemination of information and the inherent danger in this is that the basic ethical codes of conduct that ought to operate as checks and balances have been thrown to the dogs so to say.

Do we sit back and allow these charlatans to destroy our hard earned profession as media workers? Your reply is as good as mine if you truly love journalism.

Media scholars have canvassed respect and observance of the professional ethics of total avoidance of plagiarism; total disclosure of sources of information and the total avoidance of allowing bribery and gratification to influence what is posted online. Honesty is also an important aspect of the ethical code.

In the United States and United Kingdom, people who use the social media to libel some persons have recently faced the wrath of the law because the federal Bureau of Investigation and the Policing institutions are so sophisticated and competent to tackle these emerging challenges.

Nigeria is not an exception because as a nation governed by law, those who practice the new online journalism or those who use social media must be aware that there are laws against libel and defamation which can b e used to check their excesses.

The question remains whether our grossly incompetent police would be able to enforce the extant laws without breaching the time tested freedoms and media rights of these practitioners?

*          Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head, HUMAN Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria, blogs at              


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