NMCG 2018: Citizens, Experts Assess Roles of New Media Ahead 2019 Geneneral Elections
By Ossom Rapheal
Abuja – Ahead of the 2019 general elections, citizens and experts have assessed the important role new media plays in entrenching democratic practices in Nigeria.
Discussions around the growing impact of new media and its attendant challenges brought communications experts and thought leaders together to dissect issues likely to impact on the elections and citizens’ engagement on the digital space.
Speaking at the two day conference in Abuja on the New Media Citizens and Governance (NMCG), Chidi Odinkalu, a rights advocate who once led Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission, commended the role new media has played in ensuring dissemination of information and demystifying the aura around power.
Odinkalu, in his keynote address also hilighted the negative impact of the social media and warned that social media users must be careful on what they push pushed on social media.
according to him “the power of new media has made it easy to access the innermost corners of Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja. Places like the Presidential Villa where people are being barred from taking pictures already exist in Google Maps.
“One of the major problems with new media today is influence without responsibility. So, social media is today driving up violence and other vices.
“I know some people who have almost been driven to suicide because of bullying that goes on online.
“Social media is not a place where people take permission to do things. Vitriolic messages that are totally unjust and inexcusable are being pushed on social media.
“There is an assumption that social media is an instrument of transparency. It could be. But it could also be an instrument for obfuscation. Those who are being hounded should be defended because if you do not defend those with whom you disagree, then some day it could be your turn.
“The 2019 elections are coming, under which context this event is holding, and things that happen before elections usually predict what would happen after elections.
“We should watch out for violence against women and children in the upcoming elections. The analogue space is not happy that there is a new digital space that is picking on those who are carrying out violence against women and children.
“It is our responsibility to ensure that the new media space does not allow violence against women to fester” Odinkalu said.
Speakers at the conference also spoke about the limitation of social media as well as the new challenges its deployment has thrown up.
Speaking during the session titled “Are Elections Won on the Timeline?”, they considered digital tools as crucial to the success of Nigeria’s democracy as well as to use the power of social media to counter the APC-PDP dichotomy that has dominated political discourse in the country.
Supported by Facebook, MacArthur Foundation, Luminate & Palladium, the NMCG is a biennial event that was last held in 2016. The 2-day conference is hosted by Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE), Paradigm Initiative and BudgIT to discuss the theme, “Government, New Media, and Civic Spaces.”
Over 250 participants from across Africa took part in the conversation at this year’s edition of New Media, Citizens & Governance Conference.
The 2-day conference is hosted by Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE), Paradigm Initiative and BudgIT to discuss the theme, “Government, New Media, and Civic Spaces.”