Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo has challenged media practitioners to effectively tackle the issue of fake news and provocative information in the nation’s overall interest.
This is as he warned that “fake news or provocative information can cause chaos, civil unrest, war or even death.”
“I think all of us in the media, social media, print, TV, all of us, should begin to do something serious about fake news before it begins to consume us, ” he said.
According to the Vice President, the advent of social media has made the issue of fake news complex and urgent measures must be put in place to address the challenge before things go awry.
Speaking when he hosted media practitioners to a special appreciation dinner in Abuja on Thursday, Prof Osinbajo however promised improved engagement with the media going forward.
The Vice President urged media practitioners to be curious about fact checking and undertaking simple but thorough investigation over any contentious issue for the public to know the truth.
He said the lies about President Muhammadu Buhari’s certificate went far and deep because no one in the media bothered about unraveling the truth early until it got to the court.
“Just take the allegation of Mr President’s certificate for example. Someone said Mr President did not have a certificate; but Mr President said he sat for and obtained his West African School Certificate in 1961 at the Kastina College.
“The examination body then was Cambridge University, the same Cambridge University we know. I expect any media organisation to do a simple investigation to establish whether it is true or not.
“But nobody did it, and the matter went to court,” he said
Also citing an instance when a WAEC official was asked about the certificate issue on television and he answered that he was not the one that signed it.
“And the television said that the WAEC official denied Buhari’s certificate, which is false, completely false.
“It sounds funny because the WAEC official only knows about WAEC certificate, but this is a West African School Certificate by Cambridge University.
“But because nobody bothered to find out, the public believed the lies for so long.
“So with the increase of social media and anonymity every day the problems of the free media are becoming more and more complex and even more dangerous,” Prof Osinbajo said.
He therefore solicited greater support from the media, noting that one of the books he co-authored as a law lecturer was ‘Media Law in Nigeria’.
“I am a believer in the freedom of the press, whether it a responsible press or irresponsible. I just believe in the freedom of the press.
“Every morning, I receive a summary from most of the newspapers, I also receive trending news from social media from my media assistant.
“Added to that, I also receive a special pack that contains latest news, cartoons or insult from the social media,” the Vice President said
He said atimes, some of the cartoons or social media comment were very insulting and provocative but they never bothered him because of his belief in press freedom.
The dinner brought together the leadership of the National Assembly, governors, ministers, heads of government agencies and presidential aides. – NAN