Academics

FUOYE don wins UNESCO media literacy award.

A female lecturer at the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE), Ekiti State, Mrs. Omolola Oluwasola, has emerged first in the  2020 regional commemoration of the Global Media and Information Literacy (MIL) week, organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) regional office in Abuja.

Oluwasola, who lectures in the Mass Communication Department, Faculty of Social Sciences, researched on COVID-19 Countering Disinfodemic in Pandemic and Emergency Situations in Nigeria, was presented with a laptop while Mr. Paul Obi, an independent researcher, and Mr Emeka Etumnu of Imo State University came second and third.

Obi, who researched on: “Insider Peddling: X-Raying the Nigerian State as a Precursor of Hate Speech; Mapping the Cases and Remedies”, got a camera while Etumnu, who wrote on “Effectiveness of Social Media Platforms in Combating Extremism, Hate Speech, and Fake News in Nigeria” also got a camera.

The UNESCO 2020 regional  global MIL week with the theme: “Creating a Peaceful Society, Media and Information Literacy way, a way out” in its call for papers to all stakeholders from the MIL community across the non-Sahel region of West Africa (namely Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Togo), the academic community, research centres, MIL-relevant industries (communication and media companies, technological intermediaries, advertising, film industries, gaming sector, content industries) other social media actors, information and media professionals had 30 entries from the call for papers.

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Oluwasola pointed that since the outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic, there has been large number of unreliable information  spreading all over the world. As COVID-19 pandemic continues to increase across the world, a parallel problem of overabundance of information-some factual, some fake called ‘infodemic’ has also been in mass distribution/circulation.

She noted that infodemic has made it difficult for people to find trustworthy and reliable sources of information to guide them during emergencies and pandemics. This has been a growing issue because misinformation during emergencies and pandemic can be dangerous to societal wellbeing.

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To counter “Disinfodemic”(loads of viral falsehoods and untrue information about the pandemic that spread disinformation/misinformation to the public, Oluwasola recommended both including punitive and non-punitive initiatives to check disinformation peddlers

She added that government and its agencies like Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) should be responsive to information and encourage digital dialogue on cyber space. Government agencies in charge of pandemic containment and information dissemination should dedicate a person that will actively manage online dialogue with the public on the organisation’s social media platforms, stressing that NCDC needs to also improve on its myths busting initiative.

She further suggested that there should be collaborations with search engines/word press to reduce indiscriminate opening of blogs.  Also, funding support provided by Whatsapp, Facebook, Google, and Twitter to fact-checking organisations and local news media since the outbreak of COVID-19 is also needed beyond the pandemic, adding that proper training of bloggers on sound journalism practice is needed.

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Oluwasola further said there should be increased public sensitisation/ enlightenment by technology giants and social media owners like Whatsapp on how to get credible information on pandemics such as COVID via links on the platforms as most users do not know that there is a dedicated helpdesk by Whatsapp that links users to credible sources of information during the peak of disinformation about COVID-19.

The scholar also posited that all media organisations should be encouraged/mandated to have fact checking desk to further ensure sound and ethical journalism practice, noting that training and retraining of media practitioners and independent content producers/blog owners on digital media and information literacy skills as well as digital verification skills and education of the vulnerable should be instituted.

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