Nigerian government moves against Fake News to avert crisis
Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the Nigerian government on Wednesday launched a National Campaign against fake news, which it blamed for aggravating various crisis in the country.
The essence of the campaign, according to the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed is to sensitize allNigerians on the dangers of fake news to the peace, security, and the corporate existence of the country and to also remind citizens of their roles in curtailing the spread of the phenomenon.
“The timing is also not unconnected to the role of fake news in aggravating the various crises in the country as well as the need to check this phenomenon ahead of the 2019 elections,” Mohammed said as he launched the campaign in Abuja.
Quoting the free online encyclopedia, Mohammed defined fake news as ‘a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media.
He said this false information is mainly distributed by social media, but is periodically circulated through mainstream media.’
“We have been calling national attention to the issue of fake news, misinformation and hate speech since 2017. We even organized a special National Council on Information on the issue of fake news, misinformation and hate speech in Jos in July 2017. And at a conference for media handlers of state governors, in Abuja in 2017, we warned that fake news and misinformation could pose a threat to the 2019 general elections.
“Unfortunately, instead of abating, the fake news issue, which became a global phenomenon in the wake of the 2016 US election, has grown worse, hence our decision to launch this National Campaign Against Fake News,” the minister lamented.
He said fake news is an epidemic sweeping the world which if left unchecked could be worse than all the plagues that the world has recorded put together.
“It is a clear and present danger to global peace and security. It is a threat to democracy. It is the epidemic of Fake News. Mixed with hate speech, it is a disaster waiting to happen.”
He said if to for the prudence and vigilance of Nigerians, they – the religious and ethnic bigots in the country would have set the nation on fire, especially over the farmers-herders clashes as well as communal clashes.
To achieve desired results, government will use all the information dissemination tools at its disposal, work with both the traditional and social media, as well as the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to educate citizens on the the dangers that fake news poses to the nation’s “peace and security, democracy and corporate existence.”
When asked what the information regulatory bodies such as NBC and national press council is doing as an enforcement agency, the minister said “There are laws but you see a times it is a bit tortuous, slow and a lot is done. We want to appeal to people , to their own sense of goodness some people don’t even know the effect of fake news . they just pass it.
He said the epidemic is even worse for the media basically because fake news, in most cases designed to misinform, undermines confidence in the industry and put the entire country into trouble.
“You see gory pictures of herdsman. They don’t even belong to Nigeria.
They are pictures that they took from the Masai in Kenya but some people believe them. The greatest mistake we are making is so many of you can differeciate between fake news because of the background you have but so many people cannot even do that because they don’t have the background and that is why this sensitization programme is very important.
In an appeal to the media to lead the campaign, he said, “they should remember what authors Bill Kovach and Tom Rosentiel said in their book – THE ELEMENTS OF JOURNALISM – that journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.”
“The media is the strongest conveyor of news whether they are fake or real. But the consumer s are the victims themselves so I hope we can l all join Hands together because it will help the profession and help the polity,”
He however stressed that the government does not intend to resort to coercion or censorship in this campaign, “but we want to appeal to all Nigerians to play their active part.
“Before sharing that information on Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp, do two things: 1) Ask how credible the source is, and 2) Don’t share any information for which you can’t vouch. These simple measures may not end fake news, but they will go a long way in stemming its spread,” the minister appealed.
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