Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed has said the media is free to criticise President Muhammadu Buhari, but not to denigrate him or his office.
He spoke yesterday in Abuja when he visited the Peoples Daily Newspapers, in continuation of the advocacy for the National Campaign Against Fake News, which was launched in July.
Mohammed said in the rush to de-market the President and his administration, some mainstream media organisations have resorted to the use of uncouth language to denigrate the person and office of President Buhari.
“In fact, fake news has taken another dimension. Now, it is not uncommon for otherwise respectable media organisations to accuse the President without backing up their accusation with evidence. The latest of such occurred two days ago, when a newspaper wrote an editorial in which it resorted to the use of uncouth language to denigrate President Buhari on the farmers-herders clashes and other issues.
”In their eagerness to de-market the President, they forget that he is the living symbol of the nation, and that by denigrating him, they are denigrating the country, including themselves,” he said.
The minister said because of the impressive performance of the present administration, the critics knew they could not take on the government on issues pertaining to performance, hence their resort to fake news.
“They are unrelenting, because fake news is the only weapon they have against a performing administration like ours. They know they cannot take on us on the issue of infrastructure, economy, fight against corruption, agricultural development, etc. They have, therefore, resorted to using fake news to de-market our administration. Thankfully, they are failing,” he said.
Mohammed said although the National Campaign Against Fake News has not discouraged its purveyors, it has brought the phenomenon to the front burner and heightened public discourse on the dangers of fake news, which, he said, has the capacity to instigate religious and ethnic crisis.
The minister, who described fake news as a global menace, said although countries had been evolving ways to deal with the issue, Nigeria’s approach was to appeal to the sense of responsibility of media practitioners, bloggers and social media influencers.