Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, on Tuesday said Fake News does not only threaten the peace of the nation, but its corporate existence.
Muhammed spoke in Ikeja, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, at a news conference/stakeholders’ meeting with Online publishers and Social Media Influencers on the National Campaign against Fake News.
According to Muhammed, it was fake news that led to the Rwandan genocide in which over 800,000 people were killed, saying that fake news was also responsible for fueling the farmers-herdsmen crisis in the country.
He added that the war against fake news is a must-win, saying that as a multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation, Nigeria could not afford an unbridled spread of fake news.
“This phenomenon is exploiting our fault lines to aggravate the crises in the country. Of course, you are aware of a recent BBC report that says fake news circulating in the social media is fuelling the farmers-herders crises in Nigeria. Gory pictures from other lands are circulated freely via Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter, purportedly being from the killings in Benue or Plateau States.
“Let me repeat what I said at the launch of this campaign: The Federal Government will not use coercion or engage in censorship in other to fight the fake news epidemic. We also believe there are enough laws in our books to fight this phenomenon. We are therefore appealing to you and to all Nigerians to join us in fighting this scourge,” he said.
Muhammed stated that fortunately, Nigeria was not alone in the fight against fake news, as the big technology companies – Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, and so on, were deploying resources and technology against the scourge.
He said nations of the world and international organizations were taking steps against fake news and that global media organizations were not left behind, urging: “let us do our own part in tackling this scourge.”
The minister added that as part of the modality for the campaign, the Federal Government would 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 get the word out there on the need for all to shun fake news and to do everything possible to stem its tide.
He explained that since the launch, the online publishers and social media influencers were the first stakeholders to be engaged.
“It is just as well, because you are at the epicentre of the fake news phenomenon. Yes, fake news is not limited to the social media, and it is not new. What is new, however, is the way and manner it is spread. And the social media is the catalyst for that spread. Why? Because all you need to make any news go viral these days is a phone and access to the Internet! That’s a free ticket to any of the social media platforms.
“Therefore, we are here today to dialogue with you, as critical stakeholders. Your credibility, and indeed your source of livelihood, is at stake. If the society loses confidence in the media, especially social media, because of fake news, you will be the worst hit. And we are very close to that point now. Today, nobody knows what to believe
anymore. You read something online, and within a few hours, it is denied. The fake news epidemic is spreading fast.
“This is where you come in: You must not lend your various platforms to the spread of fake news. Yes, it offers instant gratification. But it doesn’t last. Once your platform is identified as a source of fake news, your credibility is gone. And once you lose your credibility as a news channel, nothing is left.
“The traditional media has signed on to this campaign. The Nation, Vanguard and Leadership newspapers are co-sponsoring the campaign. The Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) and the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) are also on board. I am therefore calling on you today to join us in this campaign,” he appealed.
The minister said a starting point was for online publishers to put a banner on their various platforms that says: ‘Say No to Fake News!’