Help us fight fake news, Nigerian govt tells UNESCO

Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed [Photo Credit: The Guardian Nigeria]

The federal government has called for the support of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, in fighting the scourge of fake news, disinformation and hate speeches.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, made the call on Thursday in Paris at the 39th Session of the General Conference of UNESCO.

The minister spoke against the backdrop of UNESCO’s Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and impunity.

Mr. Mohammed who reiterated the position of the Nigerian government never to engage in impunities against journalists, said that the global organisation must look into the negative trend of fake news and disinformation.

“Times are changing, and as much as we support that journalists must be protected and allowed to do their jobs without hindrance, we at the same time want UNESCO to consider the new menace of fake news and misrepresentations.

“Fake news and misrepresentations, while they may not directly take lives, the consequences are also grave.

“We, therefore, want UNESCO to lend its considerable weight in fight against fake news,’’ he said.

The minister also advocated better collaboration among various countries in the fight against illegal trafficking in artefacts.

He commended the move by UNESCO in amending the1970 convention against illegal trafficking and prohibition of endangered artefacts.

Mr. Mohammed said there was also the need to invest in public enlightenment and advocacy for people to take ownership of their cultural artefacts.

He identified poverty as one of the major reason for increase in the theft of artefacts.

“Because of poverty, many of our people sell off and conspire with those who are stealing artefacts.

“We need to educate them to know that a country without artefacts is without history and a country without history is likely not to progress,” he said.

Speaking in the same vein, the Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Nigeria to UNESCO, Mariam Katagum, said the country had signed and ratified all UNESCO Conventions on Culture including that on promotion of national heritage.

Ms. Katagum noted that beyond the ratifications, it was important to see how the conventions improved on the wellbeing of the common man.

She regretted that a UNESCO world heritage monument in Nigeria, the Sukur Cultural Landscape in Adamawa was attacked by the Boko Haram extremists and there were lot of damage.

The ambassador said UNESCO had, however, given assistance to Nigeria to rebuild what were destroyed and empowered member of the host community.

Ms. Katagum also said that UNESCO had prepared publications to train military personnel on how to ensure they do not destroy cultural property during armed conflicts.

She said her office had sent the manuals to the Nigerian Military for the training of their officers and men.


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