PRNigeria, a press release platform, has condemned what it described as ‘disturbing ‘ cases of fake news that rocked the EndSARS protests. To this end, it has tasked government on legislation to combat the spread of toxic misinformation and divisive statements, capable of tearing the nation apart.
Mr. Yusha Shuaib, Editor-in-Chief, PRNigeria, while disclosing that there were 101 cases of fake news through out the protests and the violence that followed it from 3rd October to 5th November, 2020, noted that freedom of information does not mean freedom of irresponsibility and should be stopped.
Shuaib who stressed this while addressing newsmen in Abuja on Wednesday, said the fake news peddled incited the youths and eventually led to an outburst in violence which caused the country huge economic loss running onto trillions of naira.
Mohammed Dahiru, Manager, PRNigeria Kano, while presenting a report on the cases of fake news, said the social media, mainstream media including foreign media, prominent personalities, celebrities, and some NGOs were culprits in the dissemination of misinformation, disinformation, half truth, incitful comments, photos with false narratives among others.
He said a thorough fact check on the videos, pictures released by the personalities and media organisations were fake and highly unrelated to the EndSARS protest. He regrets that the dissemination of unverified information was mostly done in a bid to break news first , drive traffic or incite the general public.
Dahiru debunked some videos and photos to include; a video of soldiers allegedly opening fire on EndSARS protesters which he said was a video of an operation against terrorists; a photo of dead bodies said to be that of unarmed protesters, which he said were bodies of IMN members, photo of bishops protesting, which he debunked as unrelated among several others.
He also revealed that there were several parody accounts of personalities on twitters to share misinformation and disinformation which most of them has now been deleted.
Abdusalam Mahmud, Assistant Editor, PRNigeria, while giving further breakdown said of the 101 cases, social media influencers constitute about 40 percent , social media users constitute about 31 percent , while the media (including local and foreign) has 22 percent , and institutions contributed a paltry 7 percent.
To this end, he called on government, its institutions, security agencies and teeming Nigerians to play a part in addressing the grievances of the patriotic EndSARS demonstrators, and more importantly, putting in place necessary machineries that will curb the spread of fake news, with the potential to incite another avoidable civil war.
“Social media platforms should be harnessed as an effective tool in swiftly countering false information, especially if it is defamatory, discriminatory, malicious, uncorroborated or clearly dangerous.
“There is need for the bodies saddled with the responsibility of regulating information dissemination, especially on mainstream media, to be more responsible and prompt in sanctioning the peddlers of fake news and purveyors of hate speech, and disinformation”, he said.