By JOY ODOR, Kaduna
In the present day society where the means of communication are sometimes used as tools to propagate bad news, falsehood and hatred, the Catholic Association of Media Practitioners of Nigeria (CAMPAN) has been called upon to be the salt of the earth and light of the world.
They have also been told to respond by using the modern information technologies to correct anomalies in the church and in the world by responsibly discharging their duties and by promoting a meaningful and healthy dialogue and relationship among all peoples irrespective of their religious, ethnic nationalities and affiliation.
The Bishop of Port Harcourt Diocese, His Grace, Most Reverend Camillus Etokuboh made the call in his welcome address at the National Conference of Catholic Association of Media Practitioners of Nigeria (CAMPAN) with the theme: “Developing a More Pro-Active Media for the Nigerian Catholic Church” held at Corpus Christi Cathedral Port-Harcourt South-East, Nigeria Tuesday.
Most Reverend Camillus Etokuboh while declaring the Conference Open was of the opinion that “Communication media is an indispensable tool and of paramount importance to proclaiming the Good News of salvation. Today, it is a thing of joy to see a good number of Catholic Media Practitioners who have travelled from all Dioceses in Nigeria to Part-Harcourt to attend this National Conference and a gathering of this magnitude shows the importance of the social media in the life of the Catholic Church in Nigeria”.
“In his message for the 51st World Day of Communications, entitled “Communicating Hope and Trust in our Time”, the Holy Father, Pope Francis encouraged all the media practitioners to engage in constructive form of communication that reject prejudices towards others and foster a culture of life encounter” he quoted.
His Grace urged the Catholic Media Practitioners to be courageous in making good use of the various means of communication that modern theology offers and to respond with new zeal, new method and new expression as they have the responsibility to help the leaders, youths and the generality of people in the proper use of social media rather than using it to promote violence, obscenity and criminology.
The Bishop of Nsukka Diocese, Most Reverend Professor Godfrey Godfery Onah in his key note address described the Catholic Media Practitioners as the mouth of Christ in the world through their various media outfits.
He urged them not just to have courage but the personal pride of their profession as catholic media practitioners and using every means at your disposal to present to the Nigerian the only workable alternative in the society which is Love, Justice and Peace”.
“We are being presented with an alternative that will not work an alternative of violence as the only root of progress in the world but we know that the real workable means to progress is love and justice. That is what catholic represent and that is what we are”.
“But you are there in the world; you are the mouth of Christ in the world through the various media outfits you are working with. It is a vocation and opportunity you have as Catholic Media Practitioners and a responsibility you cannot obligate without disappointing your Lord and Master.
“Look, my dear friend. You must have not just the courage but the personal pride of your profession as catholic media practitioners working out there and using every means at your disposal to present to the Nigerian the only workable alternative in the society which is Love, Justice and Peace”.
“I want to tell you that you are the most powerful, even duo you are the least paid”
“I want to quote Gospel of Luke 22 vs15. l have desired so much to eat this Passover with you because in deed, l have desirous of encountering Laity people engaged in media apostolate in Nigeria and who are nor necessary employ in church news outfits”.
“In 1967, Pope John Paul the 6th introduced Communication Day to make all of us aware of how important that we remain pro-active in communicating the Good News of Jesus Christ because the news the church communicate is good news”.
Most Reverend Professor Godfery Onah informed that in a world that seems to feed on bad news, the media are challenged not to give up on the possibility of tuning the human mind to the truth which is the source of all good news but have a moral obligation as Christians and especially as Catholics,
“In a world that seems to feed on bad news, we are challenged not to give up on the possibility of tuning the human mind to the truth which is the source of all good news. We have a moral obligation as Christians and especially as Catholics, since we claimed that we are the heirs of that full revelation of God in Jesus Christ, the wholeness of good for the salvation of the world, and the happiness of individual we have a moral obligation to share the good news”.
Bishop Onah urged participants to have passion for the truth, and service of humanity stressing that they should be proactive and not reactionary.
In the same vein, the National President, Association of Diocesan and Religious Directors of Communication of the Catholic Church in Nigeria, Reverend Father Pius Uche Ukor in his remark informed that as Catholic Media Practitioners, they must be positively and clearly distinguished in their profession and practice.
According to him, “It therefore behooves on us as Practitioners to genuinely interrogate our individual and collective roles in articulating a constructive role for the media. In being pro-active in our practice, we have to constantly conscious that catholic media practitioners, objectivity should be our watchword”.
“In our bid to educate, entertain and inform the society, we have to consciously protect the society and the Church in particular through our objective reportage with its accustom roles of surveillance, watch dog and gate keeping” Father Ukor lamented.
Reverend Father Ukor however maintained that the Catholic Media Practitioners must always keep their heads above the water and not allow the conscience to be couched in the brown envelop syndrome which is the major bane of the media practice in Nigeria today.
Contributing in a paper presentation tagged: “Responding to the Crisis of Fake News in the Age of Social Media” by the President Centre for the Study of African Culture and Communication (CIWA) Port-Harcourt, Reverend Father Gerald Musa described fake news in a scourge both on local and international level and one of the fastest ways of spreading fake news is through the social media.
He stated that an increasingly number of people rely on social media as their main source of news hence both the reporters and the readers on social media have a moral obligation to exercise some sense of social responsibility in sharing news.
“Fake news is indeed a contemporary epidemic. It has been used for blackmail and to denigrate and destroy the reputation of groups and individual including religious organizations and their leaders. Every facet of life is guided by some ethnic standard. It is ethnically wrong to share news that is unfounded and to write a news report from the figment of imagination” he stated.
Also, in a paper presentation by the Head of Department, Dr. Afamefuna Clement Asadu of Department of Linguistics and Communication Studies, University of Port-Harcourt tagged: “Witnessing to the Church through the Media: “The Role of the Catholic Media Practitioners” observed that new technologies of communication are however actually redefining the church, the meaning, nature and operations of the church are fast changing such as using big screen projection, sophisticated lighting and sounds system.
According to him, a catholic journalist as a member of the Catholic Church is akin to that of an evangelist which uses whatever media platform to do what the church would have done, propagation of the good news according to the catholic faith through the teachers and beliefs of the church in Christ Jesus.
“A catholic journalists is that person Jesus spoke to “You will be my witness in Jerusalem throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation (Acts 1:8, Mk 16:15).
“From this point of view, a catholic journalist is not only the person that works for the church’s media outfit but also a member of the catholic faith that work with other secular media. The person uses the media of communication to propagate the catholic faith” he stressed.