As the 2019 general elections draw near, stakeholders in the media industry have unanimously condemned the prevalence of fake news, insisting that it is unhealthy for the socio-economic and political development of the country. It was at a workshop on ‘Election 2019: Curbing Fake News, Propaganda and Alternative Facts,’ where stakeholders noted that fake news could lead to loss of lives and property, adding that it is important for journalists to verify information before going to press.
Director, Corporate Communications and CSR, Airtel Nigeria, Emeka Oparah, who spoke on how to curb fake news, noted that it is disguised as facts. According to him, there were two ways of addressing the issue. The first is awareness, he said, which could be in homes, schools, churches or mosques on the dangers of fake news. Nigerians, he stated, needed to know what fake news means, what it represents, and its consequences. He said the most important thing is for people to know fake news when they see it. Oarahwo noted that stories have to be checked properly to ensure that citizens are not deceived.
The second aspect, according to Oparah, “is how to curb fake news and that is what I call consequence management. So, if somebody falls foul of fake news, do you as an individual caution the person? If somebody offends your business with fake news, you can report the person to the law. There is the cybercrime law of 2014. The law must be put to test. Offenders need to be tried. If not fake news, as Prof. Wole Soyinka said, might lead to World War III. The cybercrime law must be printed in pamphlets for people to read and understand.”
CEO, Scroll Report, Mrs. Janet Mba Afolabi, who spoke on ‘Gate-keeping and Research as Tools for Curbing Fake News,’ noted that the importance of gate-keeping in journalism to checking fake news could not be overemphasised. According to her, “Many media organisations don’t have gatekeepers, especially online journalism and the bloggers. They are the reporter, editor, publisher, sub-editor, production manager, photographer, etc, and that is why we have problems because the processes have collapsed. Even those who have gate-keepers are not informed, skilled, or trained. These days people are also in a hurry to make money or name.”
While speaking on the essence of the programme, Managing Director and CEO, The Republic Media Limited, Mr. Monday Ashibogwu, noted that after the 2015 general elections, and from the survey we conducted, we realised the dangers that fake news created such as loss of lives and property, and we took it upon ourselves, as we approach the 2019 general elections, to invite stakeholders from public and private sectors as well as security agencies to appreciate the importance of curbing this menace.”
He added that fact-checking, research, verification of sources of information were some of the ways of addressing fake news menace, adding, “We need to ask ourselves as Nigerians, what is the truth and what is the fact?”
CEO NECCI Consulting, Nkechi Ali-Balogun, also stated that in order to address fake news, verification is very important, noting, “You can verify on Africa Check or Google, especially those that use WhatsApp.”