Resolution by the Diocesan and Religious Directors of Communications of the Catholic Church in Nigeria, issued at the end of their First Plenary Meeting, held at Eziafakaego Garden Resort, Nnokwa, Onitsha Archdiocese, 5–7 March, 2018
Proclaiming the Truth as an Indispensable Tool for Peace-Journalism and Panacea to Fake News in Nigeria
We, the Diocesan and Religious Directors of Social Communications of the Catholic Church in Nigeria, held our First Plenary at Eziafakaego Garden Resort, Nnokwa, Onitsha Archdiocese, from 5–7 March, 2018. This event featured speeches, presentations and goodwill messages from various dignitaries. After a prayerful reflection on the speeches by our esteemed guests on the theme of the conference which is equally Pope Francis' 52nd World Communications Day Message for 2018 titled: “The Truth will set you free” (John 8:32): Fake News and Journalism for Peace,” we were re-energised to be ambassadors of journalism for peace through proclaiming the truth and resisting every temptation to propagate fake news as media handlers of the Catholic Church in Nigeria.
We are grateful to God for the journey mercies He granted to us and giving us another opportunity to converge to deliberate about fostering unity and growth amongst us during this Holy Season of Lent. Our sentiment of gratitude goes to the Holy Father, Pope Francis for his 2018 Lenten Message titled: “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24:12) which urges us to be ardent in faith, hope and love through “listening to God's word and drawing nourishment from the table of the Eucharist.”
While congratulating our new Bishop-Chairman, Most Rev. Denis Chidi Isizoh, the Auxiliary Bishop of Onitsha, for his fatherly presence and invaluable insights at the plenary, we thank the out-gone Chairman, Most Rev. Godfrey Onah for the selfless services he rendered to the association throughout his tenure. On a special note, we thank the Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha and the Metropolitan of Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province, Most Rev. Dr. Valerian Okeke for agreeing to host us and for the warm hospitality we enjoyed since we got to Onitsha.
His humane disposition has once again assured us of the goodwill of the good people of Onitsha and the indefectible place of Anambra State in Nigeria - A state that has the only Basilica in Nigeria and home to some illustrious Nigerians like Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi, the first West African Saint in the making, the First President of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and the late Prof. Dora Akunyili.
Our appreciation equally extends to the visionary Governor of Anambra State, Chief Dr. Willie Obiano for hosting us in the Government House and for the good work he is doing in the state. We congratulate the President of SIGNIS-AFRICA, Very Rev. Fr. Prof. Walter Ihejirika for successfully hosting the first Catholic film/music festival on Saturday, 2nd December 2017 in Enugu.
We express our gratitude to our esteemed professors from the Centre for the Study of African Culture and Communication (CESACC), Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA), Port Harcourt, Rev. Fr. Dr. Inaku K. Egere and Rev. Fr. Dr. Evaristus C. Nnamene for their input at this plenary.
3. The Task Ahead
In line with Pope Francis 2018 World Communications' Day Message in which the Holy Father charges us to beware of fake news and propagate journalism for peace, as Directors of Communications, the task ahead entails that we:
1. Uphold communication as part of God's plan for us and an essential way to experience fellowship;
2. Resist the symptomatic condition of twisting the truth by being faithful to the pursuit of goodness;
3. Create educational programmes aimed at helping people to interpret and assess information provided by the media and take an active part in unmasking falsehood;
4. Commence institutional and legal initiatives aimed at developing regulations for curbing fake news on the one hand and promoting journalism for peace on the other;
5. Defend the truth while avoiding economic and manipulative reportage which feeds on misinformation and is rooted in the thirst for power, vain pleasure and destroys our interior freedom.
Aware of our role as catalysts in a society that is polluted and sickened by the effects of fake news and crises, in a bid to propagate the truth for which Christ came and died through traditional and new media platforms, we resolve that:
1. The Association borrows a leaf from the way in which Catechetical Week is celebrated in the Nigerian Church by changing the format of celebrating World Communications' Day, making it a weeklong event in all Archdioceses and dioceses.
2. The Professors from CESACC, CIWA should ensure a professional analysis of the Pope's WCD message by breaking it into themes so as to present it at every first plenary.
3. Various Directors of Communications should hold a diocesan enlightenment programme for the religious, parish catechists, seminarians, youth leaders and media workers on the rudiments of WCD message and its relevance to the local church.
4. While we salute the efforts of the Catholic Television of Nigeria for their programmes on AIT/CTV and NigComSat, we encourage Priests and Religious to make themselves available by actively participating in these progammes.
5. All media workers in the Church should focus their apostolate on the spiritual renewal and true conversion of Catholic faithful in the country.
6. All dioceses should include a column for children and youth in their respective newspapers while standing up to speak to the hearts of our leaders and the entire citizenry.
7. There should be synergy between the Directorate of Communications of the CSN and various dioceses in the gathering and processing of information towards ensuring peace and stability in Nigeria.
8. The government and all stakeholders in the media industry should ensure objective and truthful news reportage while proscribing hate-speeches and all fake news.
4. Upcoming Events
The Catholic Artistes and Entertainers' Association of Nigeria (CAEN) has finalised their Catholic Oriented Series of Soap Opera script and will commence shooting sometime within the year. The association also hopes to hold its convention and election of new executive in November this year.
In the same vein, the National Convention of Catholic Media Practitioners' Association of Nigeria (CAMPAN), a lay association of Catholics who work in both secular and Church media, will be having its meeting in Lagos by August 2018 with the theme “Communicating to Christians in troubled Economies.”
5. State of the Nation
We decry the recent attacks in various communities in Zamfara, Plateau, Benue, Kaduna, Kwara, Taraba and Adamwa States by suspected herdsmen which led to the loss of lives and property. While our hearts go with those who mourn their loses, we urge the Federal Government to make the security of lives and property a priority.
Saddened by the recent abduction of over 100 students from Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi in Yobe State by suspected Boko Haram militants, we demand that the government lives up to its responsibility of ensuring the security of lives and property by rescuing these girls as well as the remaining missing Chibok schoolgirls.
We express solidarity with our people who are yet to fully recover from the recent recession that hit the country and call on the government to initiative entrepreneurial programmes which create jobs for our teaming youths and empowers women and children. To help in eradicating poverty in the land, we also call on President Muhammadu Buhari to have a rethink over his rejection of the Peace Corps Bill while urging the National Assembly to throw its weight behind it.
6. Prayer and Conclusion
We condole the Priests, Religious and Lay Faithful of Kafanchan Diocese over the death of their Bishop, Most Rev. Joseph Danlami Bagobiri who passed away on February 27, 2018 in his sleep at the Archbishop's Court in Kaduna. We pray that God consoles the diocese.
Believing that falsehood has dire consequences, we restate our resolve to truthfully form and inform the public about the message of the gospel by being interested in what we do bearing in mind that “truth involves our whole life” which further involves “the sense of support, solidity, and trust.” While placing our nation under God, we reiterate the Holy Fathers submission that “the best antidote to falsehood are not strategies, but people.” This means that as Nigerians, we must resist every form of hate-speech and divisiveness which polarises our nation. Relaying on the intercession of our Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, we pray that God grants us the grace to uphold journalism for peace, propagate the truth and get rid of fake news in our country as we carry-out our communication apostolate during this season of Lent and beyond!