It is no longer news that advancement in technology has brought about the convergence of the various channels of mass communication thereby making the process of information dissemination less cumbersome. The process of information dissemination has been made simpler and given birth to the concept of citizen journalism. By merely having access to an Android phone, one can send out information to as many receivers along with images or visuals as the case may be. But this sometimes creates tension among citizens. It is against this background that the Plateau Peace Building Agency (PPBA) organized a consultative meeting with media stakeholders to take a critical look at this trend in the media circle and fashion ways of further strengthening the synergy between the PPBA and media practitioners towards de-escalating farmer-herder conflicts, reports Ralph Madugu
Recognizing the critical role of media professionals as stakeholders in the peace building process in society, a one-day consultative forum with the topic “Taking advantage of the convergence of news media in Reporting the farmer-herder conflict in Plateau State,” was organized by the Plateau Peace Building Agency (PPBA) with support from GIZ which drew journalists from both the print, electronic and online media to further deepen the synergy and collaborative partnership between journalists and the Agency.
The one-day meeting was aimed at finding ways of fostering collaboration between journalists, media professionals and the PPBA in the management and dissemination of news and information about conflicts, particularly the farmer-herder conflict that has remained persistent and recurrent, discuss the role that media practitioners can play in the de-escalation rather than escalation of conflicts, through responsible reporting of the issues, deliberate on the need for journalists and media practitioners to identify and separate issues of crime and criminality from those that pertain to legitimate conflicts through painstaking research and investigation and to consider the role of the internet in modern-day reporting, especially as it relates to the growth of citizen journalism (blogging) which is now usually associated with fake news because most of the practitioners are half-baked or untrained journalists.
In a communique issued at the end of the meeting, participants agreed on the need for the Agency to explore avenues for stronger synergy with other government agencies so as to ensure proactive responses to early warning signals.
Participants underscored the need for the Peace Building Agency to include journalists in their field operations so as to avail the media professionals the opportunity to see first-hand the work that the Agency is doing in communities.
The meeting advocated for conscientious effort on the part of journalists towards balanced news reporting and avoid sensationalism
Participants noted that the farmer-herder conflicts have persisted due to the absence of justice for victims, adding that criminals had taken advantage of the situation, hence the need for Government to do more in identifying and prosecuting crime and criminality.
Participants also urged journalists to employ conflict sensitive approaches in reporting conflict issues by being careful with and thoroughly screen their sources of information to avoid reporting falsehoods.
The meeting further called for adequate attention to the security and protection of journalists when they access communities that suffer attacks or are in conflict.
The communique read in part: “That there is the need for PPBA to continuously engage journalists and media practitioners as this will keep them abreast with the emerging issues and the activities of PPBA.”
While commending the Plateau State Government for signing into law the Anti-Land Grabbing and Anti-Terrorism Laws, amongst others, participants also applauded the state government for creating peaceful communities through the instrumentality of the PPBA.
It, however, tasked the state government through its various organs to sensitize the public and create awareness on the Anti-Land Grabbing Law and other such laws to enable victims of conflict seek redress.
Participants also commended the GIZ-PEACECORE Project for its support towards finding lasting solutions to the incessant farmers and herders conflict urging them to sustain same as it would go a long way in addressing the problem.
Recall that the Plateau Peace Building Agency (PPBA) was created through an Act of Legislation with the mandate to effectively coordinate all conflict prevention and peacebuilding activities and/or interventions in Plateau state.
Since its creation, the agency has been pursuing its mandate through multi-level and multi-stakeholder partnerships with critical stakeholders in the peace building process.