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Fake News, A Time Bomb, Warns Lai Mohammed

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Mohammed

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has
launched a National Campaign Against Fake News, calling the phenomenon
a time bomb that can detonate with deadly consequences if left
unchecked.

Addressing a world press conference in Abuja on Wednesday, the
Minister also described fake news as a global epidemic that could be
worse than all
the plagues that the world has recorded put together, a clear and
present danger to global peace and security, and a threat to
democracy.

He said the fake news phenomenon is capable of undermining confidence
in the media, adding: ”Once the people lose confidence in the media,
the media and the society are in trouble.”

Alhaji Mohammed said the essence of the campaign is to ”sensitize all
Nigerians to the dangers 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”.

He explained that though the federal government has been calling
national attention to the issue of fake news and hate speeches since
last year, ”the timing of the launch 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.”

The Minister said the 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
sensitize Nigerians.

He said the campaign will, however, not involve the use of coercion
and censorship, but appealed to the media to lead the campaign, and to
Nigerians not to share any news or message unless they can vouch for
its source and authenticity

Citing instances from around the world to illustrate the dangers posed
by fake news, Alhaji Mohammed said a recent study by researchers at
the Ohio State University in the US concluded that Russian
interference and the fake news it promoted probably played a
significant role in depressing Hilary Clinton’s support on election
day during the 2016 presidential elections in the US.

He also said that in India, about a dozen people have been killed in
the past six weeks just because of fake news or hoax messages, noting:
”The victims were lynched after they were falsely accused of child
abduction based on
fake messages circulated via the social media platform, WhatsApp.”

The Minister said that last week, a national newspaper in Nigeria
reported on its front page that a court has ordered the National
Assembly to begin impeachment of Buhari, which was not the case.

”The problem with that news item is that it is fake news. According
to the certified true copy of the order, the
Presiding Judge of the Federal High Court in Osogbo ordered and I
quote: ‘The applicants are hereby granted leave to issue and bring an
Application for the order of Mandamus to compel 1st to 3rd Respondents
to start impeachment proceedings against the 4th Respondent, the
President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’. This was manipulated to
read that the court has given the go-ahead for the National Assembly
to commence impeachment proceedings against the President. Fake
News,” he said

The launch, which was sponsored by the NTA, FRCN, and three newspapers
– The Nation, Vanguard and Leadership – was attended by all the heads
of the media parastatals under the Federal Ministry of Information and
Culture, President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ),
representatives of the security agencies, social media practitioners
and journalists.

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