The Centre for Democracy and Development on Tuesday, September 15, has urged politicians, religious leaders, and social media influencers to join hands curbing the spread of disinformation and misinformation in the ecosystem.
Speaking at a webinar themed; “Addressing Mis and Disinformation in Northern Nigeria”, the moderator of the event, Hamza Ibrahim, said it is important that everyone including citizens work towards bringing an end to the widespread of disinformation in various platforms and forum.
Ibrahim, a fact-checker at the CDD said almost every sector of Nigeria’s economy is affected by some level of disinformation
“From the health sector, especially with the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, to education, communication, and technology, not even one sector is spared,” Hamza said.
Addressing the role of the media in countering disinformation in the Northern region of the country, Jaafar Jafaar, the publisher of Daily Nigerian said journalists should be made to understand that they are saddled with the responsibility to serve as gatekeepers in the industry.
Further noting that not all news items make it to publish, Jaafar said articles should be properly screened before being posted.
According to Jaafar, such an effort could help in reducing the number of disinformation and false narratives spread across the media space and at the community level in the Northern region of the country.
Also, stating that social media platforms have become a contributing factor to the spread of false narratives, Jaafar said media organisations are caught in the wave of fake news due to the need to be ahead of competitors.
“Newspaper is caught in the wave for fake news because of the speed at which news is being circulated and in order to stay relevant,” Jaafar said.
Blaming Nigerian political leaders for the widespread of disinformation especially in election seasons, the Daily Nigerian publisher said: “Political leaders will support any person who is ready to spread fake news as long as the person paint them in a good light.”
He also said that disinformation is benefitting the political class more and such actions are causing harm to residents of the Northern part of the country.
These politicians even go as far as giving appointments to fake news peddlers supporting not minding its effect on the people,” Jaafar said.
In his address, the Dauda Sharafa who represented Professor Umaru Pate, the Dean School of Post Graduate Studies, Bayero University Kano, listed the high rate of unemployment in Nigeria as the major cause of disinformation spread.
Sharafa said a lack of digital literacy has also led to the prolific production and spread of all kinds of false narratives.
He also said the poor welfare of journalists by media employers cannot be ruled out.
“You cannot rule out brown envelope Nigeria in journalism, because of welfare. If they are to choose between ethic and survival they would choose to survive due to the economy of Nigeria,” Sharafa said.
He called for improved welfare for journalists by media organisations to curb some of these dangers of reporting false claims.
“On this side of the country, most people do not verify stories, before share because it comes from the family, friend, or close contacts,” he added.”
Sharafa added that there is a need to identify the vulnerable population among residents in the Northern region including uneducated individuals, artisans, young adults, social media users, market women and men, business people.
He said identifying such individuals would help to empower them to get involved in fact-checking claims perceived to be false before dissemination.
He said these groups of individuals can play the roles of fact-checking ambassadors and ease the strain caused by the spread of false narratives in Northern Nigeria.