Twenty-three years ago, I was a fresh graduate who was keen on saving the world from every form of evil and injustice. My armour was my pen, and I was operating within the laudable confines of free speech. I got a job with the local newspaper in my state and embarked on my journey.
I was unmarried then and as free as a bird. My salary was pitiable, but I was still living with my parents, and my bills were practically nonexistent. My dad was a firm believer in free speech with common sense, of course, so he taught me to write and report on issues affecting the ‘average person’ and that I should be upright and fearless. I took his advice and within a few months, I got promotion from roaming the fields looking for ‘breaking news’ to having a desk at the State House of Assembly (our House of Common here in the UK).
I was hungry for news and reported on mundane and boring things like the House Members sponsoring a Bill etc. One day, I was finishing my report when a member of the opposition party approached me, and dropped a paper on my desk.
‘See me at the Press Centre’, he said quietly.
Intrigued, I wanted to know more. As a respectable journalist, I believed in reporting the truth; I have to be impartial.
Later that evening, I met the gentleman, and he handed over some documents that were so hot, I turned bright red. The governor of the state had misappropriated over two hundred and forty-one million naira, (equivalent of almost a hundred million pounds), and although fear ripped through my body, I stuck by my principles and arranged an editorial meeting with my editor.
My parents were petrified. My mum voiced her concerns for my safety, but I was unperturbed. I was dabbling into the unknown world of mucky politics. My dad tried everything he could to dissuade me from publishing the story, but failed.
Although my editor was delighted for such a large ‘scoop,’ he was hesitant. However, I stuck to my guns. The public deserved to know the truth about the misappropriation of funds, and we published the story. The effect ripped through the state like a tsunami.
Luckily, I didn’t die through assassination attempts on my life like my dad had feared. After the ruckus died down, my dad was adamant that I should stick to writing articles and novels rather than investigating corrupt government officials. I took his advice, and I was glad I did.
What was I getting at? You may wonder. I believe in free speech but with the emergence of the internet and mobile technology, everyone has become a ‘source’ and misinformation and online bullying has reached a crescendo. People should be responsible online, words are powerful, it can build people up, or it may destroy them.
There are several ways we can change our world, and I think it starts with kindness, which is in short supply nowadays.
As a journalist, I believe in the power of free speech, but ‘keyboard’ warriors spurting hatred, racism and misogyny abound on social media, and that is disheartening.
The world is changing but if we think before we type anything online, we might be saving a life.
Think about it.