Niyi Odebode and Olusola Fabiyi
The Federal Government on Wednesday launched the National Campaign Against Fake News, with an assurance that it would not resort to censorship.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, at the launch of the campaign in Abuja, described fake news as an epidemic sweeping the world.
During the event attended by some security agencies, Mohammed stated that fake news on the social media was fuelling farmers-herders crises in Nigeria.
He stated, “In a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country like ours, fake news is a time bomb. And in recent weeks, many anarchists have been doing everything possible to detonate the bomb. But for the prudence and vigilance of Nigerians, they – the religious and ethnic bigots among us – would have set the nation on fire, especially over the farmers-herders clashes as well as communal clashes.”
The minister said fake news, if left unchecked, could be worse than all the plagues that the world had recorded.
He stated, “It is a clear and present danger to global peace and security. It is a threat to democracy. The epidemic of fake news, mixed with hate speech, is a disaster waiting to happen.”
“For the media, the epidemic is even worse. This is because fake news, in most cases, designed to misinform, undermines confidence in the media and once the people lose confidence in the media, the society is in trouble.”
According to him, what has made fake news an issue of concern is the means and speed at which it is now spread around the world.
“Anyone with a phone and Internet access can author and make fake news go viral in minutes. With the number of mobile phone users in the world expected to pass the five billion mark by 2019, you can see the kind of crisis we face,” he added.
Mohammed stated, “You are all aware of a recent report by the BBC, that fake news circulating in the social media is fuelling the farmers-herders crises in Nigeria.
He added that the ministry organised a special National Council on Information on the issue of fake news, misinformation and hate speech in Jos in July 2017.
Mohammed said despite the moves, the problem of fake news was not abating, adding that it had worsened.
The minister stated, “The essence of this campaign is to sensitise all Nigerians to the danger posed to the peace and security, and indeed the corporate existence of Nigeria by the phenomenon, and the fact that each and every Nigerian has a role to play in curtailing the spread of fake news.
At the event, the President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Alhaji Waheed Odusile, said, “In this country, we know that people would hide under the guise of national interest to pursue a vendetta against real or perceived enemies. I just want to advise that you need to sit down with them (security agencies) and advise that they should exercise restraint so that when they are fighting fake news, they will not be fighting what they themselves believe is fake, but it is not fake.”
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