Speakers at a 2-day international conference in Abuja themed “Democracy and Disinformation: How fake news threatens our freedom and democracy in Nigeria” organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) and MacArthur Foundation express concern over negative media practice.
It was all knocks for fake news as the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. He cautioned Nigerians, especially the media against the spread of fake news, saying this could lead to civil war, which the nation could not afford.
Declaring the conference open, he said fake news is the greatest threat to democracy and security in Nigeria as it played a role in the civil war and Nigeria could not afford to fall victim to the same circumstances that led to the war.
According to him, the government has been doing its best in educating the public on the dangers of fake news through various avenues.
Also, the Director-General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Mallam Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, said that the regulation of media stations by the commission was to protect lives and property.
Represented by the Director, Policy and Research in the commission, Mr Mujtaba Sada, Modibbo said the regulation was necessary in order to protect citizens from the menace of fake news circulation.
On his part, a Senior Fellow, CDD, Professor Jubrin Ibrahim, said the conference was also protect the nation’s democracy against the threat of fake news, as the menace was like a machinery aimed at distorting Nigeria’s election management and the electoral integrity.
He cited many examples of fake news from the social media including the monkey pox scare in 2017, when the army was alleged to be injecting school children with the deadly disease in the South-eastern part of the country.
The Director of the CDD, Idayat Hassan, wondered if it was possible to live in a world not dominated by mistruths, misquotations, false stories and outright lies.
She said “The experience in the country in the last few weeks is noteworthy. Following the killings of innocent Nigerians in several communities in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State, the media went agog quoting Mr Danladi Ciroma, a leader of Miyetti Allah in the North-Central, as saying the killings were a retaliation of previous acts of deadly aggression against Fulani residents and pastoralists in the state.”
A former Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, urged the federal government to proffer stiffer laws against declaration of fake election results.
The incumbent Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu represented by a National Commissioner, Okechukwu Ibeanu promised that INEC would keep embarking on rigorous sensitisation to enable electorates know their rights and protect them from hazards of fake news.
On her part, the Chairperson, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Dr. Abiola Akiyode, urged mainstream media to set agenda for checking the scourge of fake news. She said as soon as information put out is not factual, the media should be ready to retract and make people to believe in your medium.
The CEO, Daria Limited, Mrs Kadaria Ahmed, the Publisher, Premium Times, Mr. Dapo Olorunyomi and a former Education Minister, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili among others also spoke at the event.