Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Nobel Laureate, Prof, Wole Soyinka, on Wednesday, said he did not, in any way, see where Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, insulted President Muhammadu Buhari, in the leaked audio tape that had been trending in the media.
Soyinka, who spoke in Abuja at an event organised by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) World Service titled ‘Nigeria 2019: Countering Fake News,’ said the fake news is lethal and deliberate.
At the event were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; the Presidential Candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), Kingsley Moghalu, the Director, BBC World Service, Jamie Angus, amongst others.
Recall that an audio recording surfaced online, last week, allegedly ascribed to Amaechi as castigating the President.
But Soyinka said the traditional media which he referred to as ‘Street Media,’ must set an example and must not join the train of fake news.
“Just two or three days ago, I read an item where a minister was supposed to have insulted the President and it was carried in some media.
“And I checked the statement what this, and there was of course, a video and so on. I looked through it. I read the text again and again.
“I mean, I said I have to relearn this English language because I didn’t see where he insulted… You know the one I am referring to,” Soyinka said.
Soyinka further said sometimes, the print media felt compelled to compete with mediums that spread fake news, saying it is a great mistake.
He added that the print media has a reputation and standard and that there are some kinds of expectations from the print media.
Soyinka further said the print media should not be embarrassed to show itself superior to a medium which is acceptable to the lowest ebb of the society.
Soyinka noted that there is greater control in the print media, saying the print media must not be afraid to criticise wherever necessary, the elected media.
Earlier, Soyinka said Facebook should be called to order to wake up to its corporate responsibility as far as fake news is concerned.
“I think we need to call this Facebook and Company. We need to call them to order. We need to insist that they wake up to their corporate responsibility,” Soyinka stated.
He added that after all Facebook is unleashing the new trends on the world.
Soyinka said as long as there are fake sites, there will always be fake news and fake everything else.
“So, there needs to be in greater control. It should be possible for organisations like Facebook to do far more rapid checks,” Soyinka also said.
Giving example of personal brush with fake news, Soyinka insisted he never said ex-President Goodluck Jonathan married an illiterate woman as ascribed to him in 2014.
In his remarks, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said he had also been affected by fake news.
“…I am also one of the very many targets of fake news. And it isn’t just for money, sometimes it may also cause you marital peace.
“I got a call in the office from my wife about three weeks ago or four weeks ago and she said Yemi, what were you doing with strippers? I said, ‘what to do you mean strippers?’ ”
He added that there had been a story on a very famous blog that said “Osinbajo Caught With Strippers” and there was a photograph of him standing between two perfectly clothed ladies, but just underneath it, the same ladies were not wearing much cloths.
Osinbajo added that as it turned out, he had in fact taken photographs with the two ladies at an entertainment event when they were perfectly clothed, saying by the time the story was put out, it was as though he had also taken the photograph with them when they were not clothed at all.
Osinbajo concluded that the capacity of fake news to cause great harm was not in doubt.
He also said frequently, particularly every day, he saw news that affected his work in one way or the other that were fake.
He said if nothing was done to halt the menace, a time will come when nothing will be believable.
“I think that if we discredit public information in that way, it is a massive danger for society itself aside from the capacity of fake news to cause physical harm and all that,” Osinbajo said.
Osinbajo, however, said it will be impossible to regulate the social media without substantially infringing on the fundamental human rights, especially freedom of expression.
On his part, Angus said the best way to fight fake news is through the basic tools in journalism.
“And a lot of what we can do to fight fake news is use basic tools in journalism: check the story, check the facts, check the source,” Angus said.
Also speaking, the President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mrs. Funke Egbemode, said fake news is sophisticated and deliberate.
“Fake news kills, it destroys and people just like watching. Those who peddle it just like watching things being destroyed,” Egbemode submitted.