Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Federal Government, on Monday, took a step further in the campaign against fake news in the country.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in Abuja, took the campaign to the office of the Authority Newspaper, signaling the beginning of the campaign to media offices.
He said the visit “kick-starts our media tour, which is aimed at pushing our national campaign against fake news.”
Mohammed also said the opposition was latching on fake news to de-market the Buhari administration.
The minister added that in employing the tool of fake news, the opposition had pitched Christians against Muslims and one ethnic group against another.
Mohammed added that it was not by accident that the government’s first port of call on the tour was Authority Newspaper, saying that the visit was designed to give him and his delegation, the opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to the newspaper having been the first and only newspaper to date to have written an editorial in support of the campaign.
He, however, said his appreciation to the Authority Newspaper was not to minimise the support that the government received from across the media spectrum since the launch of the campaign.
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“In particular, this campaign is being co-sponsored by the Nation, Leadership and Vanguard newspapers, as well as the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Television Continental (TVC) and the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
“We have no doubt that the Authority newspaper will also come on board as a sponsor,” Mohammed said.
Mohammed further said fake news was a clear and present danger to the peace and security, the nation’s democracy and indeed, the corporate existence of Nigeria.
He also said fake news was a time bomb, adding that it has wreaked havoc in other lands.
He continued, “In 1994, over 800,000 people died in Rwanda due to a combination of fake news and hate speech.
“In India, about a dozen people have been killed after they were falsely accused, in a message circulated on Whatsapp, of abducting children.
“The US is still reeling from the role that fake news played during the country’s last general elections. And in Nigeria, fake news is aggravating conflicts, especially the farmers-herders clashes.
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“Purveyors of fake news are also exploiting the country’s fault lines, using religion and ethnicity to divide the country.
“But the days ahead will even be more difficult. Why? Because the opposition has latched on to the use of fake news as a campaign tool ahead of the 2019 general elections.
“With the Buhari administration delivering on its promises to fight corruption, build the nation’s economy and tackle insecurity, the opposition has realised it will not make any impact if it takes on the administration on that turf.
“So, it has decided to take the easy route, which is to use fake news and hate speech to de-market the administration, pitch Christians against Muslims and one ethnic group against another. In short, they want to plunge the country into turmoil.
“It is said that the easy way is not always the right way. The opposition knows that, but it doesn’t care. It is hell bent on dividing Nigerians along ethnic and religious lines.
“It is using fake news to blame all the killings in a certain part of the country on herdsmen, ignoring the bands of deadly militia groups that are being sponsored by unscrupulous people to kill innocent people and put the nation on edge.
“It is distorting the fact that the clashes between the farmers and herders are being aggravated by climate change – which has heightened the contest for scarce natural resources like water and land, as well as demographic pressure. With a population of 45 million in 1960, Nigeria is today approaching the 200-million mark,” Mohammed stated.