By Isah Hussein
Civil Society Groups For Good Governance (CSGGG) on Friday 17th, stressed the need for citizens to consistently check for facts and accuracy of all the information they receive before disseminating to protect Nigeria’s unity.
The President of CSGGG, Mr Ogakwu Dominic made the call at a Civil Society Roundtable on Fake News, with the theme; “Accountability in Citizen Journalism as Roadmap to Achieving Good Governance’’ at the Sheraton hotel, Abuja
Dominic stated that the event is the second edition of the group’s fake news campaign, describing fake news as a dangerous lethal weapon that had eaten deep into the fabrics of our existence, causing chaos and disrupting peace .
He said this campaign is borne out of genuine concerns to track down hate speeches and malicious reportage which he said is most common in Nigeria during election circles.
He noted that because fake news spreads very fast due to technological advancement which had accelerated information dissemination, politicians who have nothing to offer often resort to propagating fake and malicious narratives to minimize the achievement of others.
According to him, this menace has become a major threat to our generation and the ones to come and, the experience prior to the 2015 general election is what led to the birth of the campaign because fake news spreads like wild fire.
“Hence, it is of great importance to ensure that as the election circles draws closer, the vulnerable members of the public are not distracted from the burning issues of good governance ,’’ he said.
Dominic said that the purveyors of fake news cut across all classes of the society as everyone at one point or another have been guilty of spreading information that are not accurate or factual because of our biases which is informed by our religious, ethnic and political leanings and that the advent of social media has accelerated the speed at which they are spread.
He said conscious efforts must be made to eradicate ignorance as people are not always thorough about how they process information they receive
He assured that the group would continue to champion the fight against fake news and malicious reportage across the country.
According to Dominic, the spreading of fake news should be made punishable by law to ensure that anyone caught in peddling fake news is dealt with decisively to serve as deterrent and to maintain the stability and integrity of the nation.
He said that the issue of fake news is addressed in the constitution and that the government needs to invoke the power of the constitution to address the menace of fake news as it has contributed in no small measure in heightening the insecurity being faced throughout the country.
Dominic said that the government on its own part need to be transparent with information as most times, it is either found defending what it should not be defending or withholding information that is of interest to the public.
He called for citizen journalism because according to him, government agencies that are saddled with the task of curbing fake news have not being up to task as they mainly play politics with the issue, which is why everyone must be involved in their own little ways in the campaign against fake news.
He said citizen journalism is very essential in this regard because “all of us are on the internet. So when you see any news that’s fake, it is your duty and responsibility as a citizen to immediately respond and identify it as fake and letting the public know that it is incorrect”.
Prof. Ismail Junaidu , Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) said that fake news is a menace that is taken seriously by the Council and had to be tackled from the lowest level.
Junaidu said that the council was using its mandate of curriculum development to champion the fight against fake news in primary and secondary schools.
He said that the council was working on the phrase` catch them young “by inculcating issues on fake news ranging from how to identify it, to how not to partake in it among others in schools.
Comrade Solomon Adodo, President National Youth Council of Nigeria called for support from all stakeholders to ensure that the civil society campaign gets to every corners of the country.
Dr Maho Austin, in his keynote address said that “every information is fake , until it is verified and the source or sources are considered to be credible”.
He said that since the rise and revolution in information and communication technologiy, the world has never been the same as there has been an explosion in knowledge and a rise in citizens’ demand for participation in governance as well as accountability and transparency of institutions.
He noted that “we are an in era of citizens journalism, with the advent of social media hence, the need to differentiate between fake news and citizens journalism”.
“Social media have become a powerful news sources for the people”. “That is where we all get our news and as we get them, we share them with other people who in turn share with others”
He called for the creation of effective mechanisms for monitoring and regulating the use of social media because of the enormous influence it wields on the world youth population which can easily be used to distabilize society.
A resource person, Mr Liberty Audu Oseni , who spoke on the subject “Community Based Approach to Handling the Spread of Fake News” said that fake news is a threat to Nigeria’s unity.
Oseni disclosed that in every community, there is always a trusted and reliable sources that can be relied upon to provide factual and accurate information about events and developments in the community.
He emphasised the need for the establishment of effective communication between the state and the communities in order to identify and utilize such sources.
He said that the state needs to understand that it needs effective communication to counter fake news because according to him, the state will be giving room for fake news to thrive when it do not come up with timely explanation of events and developments.
The highpoints of the event was the unveiling of a magazine, “CSONews Watch” and award presentation to individuals, NGOs, government agencies and officials who have played different key roles in the campaign against fake news.