The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria Episcopal Chairman for Social Communications and Bishop of Nsukka Diocese; Most Rev. Godfrey Onah has reiterated the need for a more proactive media for the communication apostolate of the Church in the country to be effective and result oriented. Bishop Onah made the call in his keynote address to the second plenary meeting of Diocesan/ Religious Directors of Communications for the year 2017, held recently at the Louis Bautain Retreat, Conference and Catechetical Centre, Itele-Ijebu, Ogun State.

According to the Bishop Chairman: “If there is any time when we, as professionals, can map out strategies on how we can play better roles as directors of communications to improve our communications in the church, the time is now.” About 45 communications directors from all over the country were in attendance.

The bishop however added: “The essential questions we need to ask ourselves include: What kind of media do we want for the Church in Nigeria? How involved are we as Catholics in the promotion of Catholic faith through the media? How many of our Catholic programmes go on the air waves (Television, Radio, Print, Social Media), whether through secular or Church Media platform?”

The local ordinary of Nsukka noted that there seems to be a media blackout of the activities of the Catholic Church in the secular media in the country; adding: “Bad and fake news about the Church make the greatest headlines. Many times, the views of Church authorities are misrepresented especially in the secular media and we do nothing to challenge it.”

Articulating the types of bad news that exist, Bishop Onah declared: “The ease with which fake news is generated and spread through social media is particularly scary when you take into account the fact that nowadays, a growing number of people get their news predominantly from that source.” He continued: “With the viral nature of the social media, the wide spread of rumours and misinformation become more easier and faster.”

While outlining the harm the social media is doing to the society, the communications apostolate chairman stressed the need for the promotion of good news about the contribution of the Catholic Church to the socio-economic development of the Nigerian nation particularly in the areas of education, health care, justice and peace. He added: “A story line that promotes good news is a story line that is based on truth, a story that is balanced, a story that is objective.”

He therefore advocated for “a model media that will promote evangelization”; provoke good thoughts and reflection; serve as watchdog of the society in all ramifications; tell stories of hope and debunk fake news about the Church.

While wishing the directors fruitful deliberations at their meeting, Bishop Onah urged them to live up to their of promoting good news, respond to issues of common interest that affect the Church and renew their commitment through their media apostolate “by bringing the message of hope of the Holy Father to our people – the fact that God loves our country Nigeria and that His promises never fail.”

He added: “besides, our people need to be reminded to be courageous and resilient even in the face of provocation and suffering; to continue to live by our traditional and genuine religious values of compassion and solidarity, even in the midst of economic hardship.”