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Sunday, August 13, 2017

What makes GOCOP thick!

It is my pleasure to welcome everyone to this historic event. Today is a major milestone for our Guild, which was formed about four years ago to check all forms of professional misconduct by new media proprietors and their journalists. Be it blackmail, fake news, rumour mongering, or copyright infringement.

GOCOP has grown in leaps, and so has been its influence. At our inaugural meeting on October 9, 2013, we had only nine members in attendance. Last night when we had our congress and elected new leaders, the room overflowed with members. We now have at least 55 members, with many more members queuing up to join, indicating a dramatic ballooning of the nation’s online media space.

Yet, becoming a member of GOCOP does not come easy.
Our constitution demands that to be admitted:
a. You must have practised journalism for at least 10 years.
b. Non journalist who establishes an online news publication must appoint an editor who has practised for at least 10 years.
c. Your company must be registered as a media entity with the Corporate Affairs Commission.
d. Members must have verifiable and functional office in Nigeria.
e. You must have a minimum of two reporters and other layers of staff.
f. Your online publication must have been in existence for a minimum of one year.
g. You must be recommended by at least two financial members of the association.
h. To be admitted to the Association, the Screening Committee must certify that you have met the requirements (a to g) above.

You may lose membership:
a. If you fail to keep your financial obligations to the Association for at least three years.
b. If you are proven to have engaged in any form of unethical conduct.

We have an Ethics/Disciplinary Committee, and membership of GOCOP is usually revoked once it is proven that a member engaged in any form of misconduct.

Over the years, we have peer-reviewed each other, and ensured that members remained on the path of professionalism. At one of our meetings we agreed to name and shame members who indulge in any form of professional misconduct. We have engaged authorities and private sector entities in our country on how to enhance professionalism in our country and deepen trust in the media.

Since the inception of this Guild, the online media space in Nigeria has ballooned. A number of online news platforms have sprung. This exponential growth has, understandably, come along with a lot of positives and not a few negative developments.
     
While this expansion in the space signify healthy increase in access to information by Nigerian citizens, as well as democratization of the space to give way for diversity of voices, it at the same time portends series of problems.

Chief among these is the unhealthy dose of fake news and hate speech being dished out through some of these websites and blogs. Indeed, some of the platforms appear to have been set up solely for propaganda, smear campaigns or for the spreading of hate.

Just like security agencies and those in authority, we are equally worried about the proliferation of fake news sites that trade in fake news, and those who exist to spread hate. 

We are concerned beyond our standing as patriotic citizens but also as online publishers because of how the activities of some unscrupulous elements are giving us all a bad name.

While we will continue to advocate for widening of the space for citizens to express themselves, GOCOP is ready to support authorities concerned in a bid to sanitize this industry. 

We however demand that all stakeholders, including this guild and all other identified Nigerian media stakeholders join hands to find solution to this problem. We are for sanity but we do not want a regulatory environment that gags or muscle the nation’s media space.

Now GOCOP is ready for any another phase in its history. That is why I am glad that we are passing on the baton today to an outstanding team of members elected yesterday. I am optimistic that this Guild will only grow stronger.

*Speech by immediate past acting president of the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP), Musikilu Mojeed.


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