Fake News: Nigerian govt will not gag media – Lai Mohammed

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

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has assured Nigerians there would be no censorship or coercion of any media organisation in the government’s fight against fake news and hate speech.

Mr Mohammed gave the assurance when he featured on the NTA flagship programme: ‘ Good Morning Nigeria’ entitled, “Combating Damages of Fake News in Nigeria,” monitored by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Friday in Abuja.

He said the fight against fake news was a global trend with many technology companies like Google, Facebook, twitter and whatsApp also involved in the fight globally.

The minister added that the existing law would be strengthened and enforced to stem the tide of fake news and hate speech, adding that the law would be allowed to take its course.

According to him, “The Federal Government will not censor, we will not coerce any media organisation, but we will allow the law to take its course.

“The laws that are there today to take care of this scourge but I think the most important thing is advocacy in order to appeal to the sense of responsibility of ordinary Nigerian.

“Many people think it is a joke, that is, it is just fun when they see pictures being manipulated but some people also are mischievous and they are deliberately misinforming Nigerians because they actually want to destabilise the polity.

“We will not censor, we will not coerce, but we want to appeal to the every Nigerian that this is a national assignment and is in the interest of every one of us especially the media,’’ he said.

Mr Mohammed said that the essence of launching the campaign against fake news was to sensitise Nigerians on its dangers and encourage everyone to get involved in the fight.

He said, “fake news poses serious danger not just to the peace and security of a nation, but also it threatens the very corporate existence of a nation.”

He also urged the media to always be sure of their sources, adding that even when story sources were identified, things that could divide the nation should not be emphasised.

According to him, a country like Nigeria which is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, fake news laced with hate speech is a time bomb.

“It is important for us to sensitise Nigerians and seek the cooperation of the media, in particular, in fighting the scourge of fake news.

“We are also using tool of information available to us including using the National Orientation Agency and we have also spoken with the giant technological companies like Google, whatsApp, twitter and also Facebook.

“I must say that it gladdens to see that technology companies are also aware and they are very worried about fake news.

“Google has committed about 300 million dollars for the next three years to fight fake news, Facebook has taken out about 583 million fake accounts and twitter 70 million and WhatsApp has today come out with software to detect fake news.

“Ones we get the support and cooperation of these tech companies and the media in Nigeria as well as everyone, we will be able fight this scourge,’’ he said.

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