Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State has said that Sahara Reporters, an online newspaper hit him and his government with unpleasant news more than other governors in the country.
The governor, who spoke today, October 4 as special guest of honour at the 3rd Annual Conference of the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP) in Lagos, said at certain times, he was being consistently attacked with fake news and half truth news items in social media.
“Over 96 percent of reports carried by Sahara Reporters on my state were negative. But I see all that as the price I should pay as a leader. I also believe that such media attacks are necessary for deepening the democracy we are practicing.
“As irritating as the social media, it is relevant to deepening democracy. On the other hand, there is need for professionalism and respect for the ethics.”
Governor Dickson appealed to leaders to tolerate the excesses of the social media, adding that attempts to retaliate through muzzle could lead to denying the media its constitutional role of holding the leaders accountable and therefore dictatorship.
The Governor insisted that Democracy in Nigeria cannot grow without a vibrant media.
Dickson said that while it is important to exhibit caution, professionalism and respect for national security, it is most crucial that the rights of Nigerians to freedom of expression and other liberties were respected.
He called for concerted commitment of media practitioners and the government to pay the requisite price of tolerance, endurance, professionalism and other ideals for the entrenchment of the democratic culture in the country.
The Governor said that the failure to expand the frontiers of the freedom of expression and the inability to tolerate contrary views and opinions would amount to dictatorship.
“You cannot have a democracy without a vibrant media. Those who are privileged to be in government would find it tough and indeed very tough because most times, the media bites real hard.
“However, as irritating as it might appear to be, especially in the face of rumour, and misquotations, in some cases, the media is nevertheless indispensable to the sustenance, development and deepening of culture of democracy.
“For those in charge of governance, you need a thick skin, you have to tolerate the media with contrary views because you cannot have a democracy without a vibrant media.
“There is need for caution, professionalism, the highest value of national security, but above all of these is the need for the respect for individual freedoms, especially the freedom of expresion.”
The Governor called on the Media to support fundamental constitutional reforms that would guarantee inclusiveness and create a stable country.
He stressed that the Media is the only profession that is saddled with the onerous constitutional responsibility to hold government accountable to its action.
According to him, the Media was singled out for this sensitive role because of the consciousness of the framers of the constitution about its importance to the development and protection of democracy in the society.