2019: Nigerian media experts discuss ways to tackle fake news

Some panelists at the conference
Some panelists at the conference

As the 2019 general elections draw near, media experts on Tuesday proffered solutions to limit the spread of fake news.

The two-day conference in Abuja, where the experts spoke, was organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD). It is aimed at addressing the rise of fake news.

The event, chaired by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had Dapo Olorunyomi, PREMIUM TIMES publisher; Tolu Ogunlesi, Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Digital/New Media; Simon Kolawole, Publisher, CableNG; Kadaria Ahmed, CEO, Daria LTD; and Adaora Onyechere, African Independent Televison (AIT) in its first panel discussion.

Mr Olorunyomi said technology has advanced to the point that it can even be used to even elect a “fake president”.

“You can target people through the algorithm and the technology models and change realities. You can even elect a fake president through it, you can decide democracy and you can destroy democracy. Someone in a small room or a small analytical company can help elect governments in Brazil, India, U.S.A and even in Nigeria. The whole face of democracy can be engineered by these existing algorithm in this age of social media.

“Trying to regulate the media in Nigeria will not work. I am not saying there is no falsehood in the media but the use of social media technologies where millions of people can be targeted at once is a major issue to be addressed,” he explained.

Mrs Onyechere stressed the need for the application of caution while tackling fake news so as not to muscle human rights.

For Mr Ogunlesi, the first step in tackling fake news is to douse the human elements and biases that appeal to fake information.

“Purveyors of fake news understand certain sentiments that appeal to a particular public. It can be religious, tribal or political and they use this to penetrate people with fake news.”

Ms Ahmed said a strong media organisation is the right tool to tackle fake news.

“If you have a strong media organisation, people will go there to get news and discount the fake news that is in circulation. However, good journalism costs money. People are not willing to invest in quality news gathering. Nigerian citizens need to support the media. We need to change the standard of our editorial values and standards.”

She said any form of bill by the government to regulate the media will be resisted.

“We are not afraid of regulation, we are wary of government regulation. Our democracy has not reached the stage where people can be able to detach themselves from their individual interest. Every government we have seen from the beginning of our democracy have done a number of things to project themselves while in office not in the interest of the average Nigerians. Therefore we will not agree that they have our interest at heart, when they said that they want to regulate the media.

“Where we are today, the free press, functional and credible media is the biggest defense we have against fake news and tyrannical governments.”

Meanwhile, the CDD also launched a news project at the conference.

The project coordinator, Alhassan Ibrahim, said CDD is partnering with PREMIUM TIMES in the project which aims at training 50 journalists on how to counter fake news.


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