Senate President, Senator David Mark, was last week quoted by a newspaper asking for a clampdown on social media, saying that people now use them to demean their leaders. Now the Senate President is saying he was misquoted.
Below is a statement from his special adviser on media, Kola Ologbondiyan, plus the the full text of what the senate president really said at the gathering.
Recently, the President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, delivered a keynote address at the Senate press corps Retreat in Umuahia, Abia Sate. The theme of the Retreat was: The Role of the Media in Promoting Good Governance. In his address, the President of the Senate had asserted that “the emergence of the social media like Facebook, twitter, blackberry messenger, YouTube etc have changed the face of the media practice by making information sharing easier, faster and quicker. But this is not without its demerits. Social media has become a threat to the ethics of media practice and good governance because of its accessibility and absolute freedom. Every freedom carries a responsibility. Even in the advanced democracies, where we all agree that good governance is practiced, there is no absolute freedom.
Continuing, Senator Mark expressed the belief that “there must be a measure to check the negative tendencies of the social media in our country. I say this because media practice, particularly journalism, process news gathering and dissemination. It also operates a feedback mechanism and where the practitioners erred there is room for rebuttal. But in the social media a faceless character can post any information that is absolutely false and misleading but will never retract it. At the end of the day one is bombarded with questions over what one has no business with. I suggest that schools of mass communication and journalism should review their curricular to include the operations of social media.”
Senator Mark also informed the audience that since he was quoted out of context that mobile phones was not for the poor myth, he had learnt to read a prepared text wherever he went to deliver an address. “I have challenged anybody to show me a quote in my own words where I said telephone is not for the poor. Nobody has been able to produce it yet I have to defend this everyday that what I said was if you must use a phone then you have to pay for the service.”
Noting that he always love to speak from the heart, the President of the Senate said he hoped and prayed that whatever he would present in his address to the Senate Press Corps at the event would not be misconstrued and misrepresented to Nigerians who were not present at the event.
It was as if Senator Mark saw tomorrow or had a premonition of how his innocuous remark on the social media would be misinterpreted and misrepresented by mischief makers who have been lurking around to attack him.
Hardly had he returned to his seat after the address when mischief makers began to work on their blogs in the social media. The message of the President of the Senate, delivered in a simple language, has not only been misconstrued, it has become misrepresented and had begun to spread like a wildfire. Mark had become the victim of the fear he had expressed before his address.
The wildest among the reactions said Senator Mark had called for censorship of the social media. There were those who said the President of the Senate stated that social media was being used to insult the leaders of the nation like him while others became as mundane as alleging that he wanted the social media to stop criticizing those in authority and to write only their good sides. All these are absolute falsehood.
From the excerpts of the speech quoted above, it is manifest that the President of the Senate neither called for the censorship of the social media nor alleged that the medium was being used to insult the Nigerian leaders like him. He also did not ask the social media to stop criticizing the Federal Government and write only on its good sides. Rather, he called for measures that would check the negative tendencies inherent in the use of the social media. That, I believe, is a genuine call that would help refocus the medium.