Fact checking imperative in tackling fake news-NAN MD


By Aluta News

Oct 12, 2021

The Managing Director of News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Mr Buki Ponle, says fact checking will assist in tackling the scourge of fake news, misinformation and disinformation in the country.

Ponle said this on Tuesday at the Fact Checking Course Two programme organised by the National Orientation Agency (NOA) in Abuja.

NAN reports that NOA had on Aug. 3 held the Course One programme for selected participants from government establishments, Civil Society Organisations and the private sector in Abuja.

The managing director, who was represented by his Special Assistant, Mr Mufutau Ojo, commended the management of NOA for building capacity in the area of  fact checking.

He added that the forum would go a long way in helping to check fake news and misinformation.

” There is no doubt that now more than ever before in our national life, the advent of fake news has become a matter of concern, especially with regards to flagrantly exposing our fault lines and often threatening national security.

” One incident which had exemplified this deplorable development was the October 2020 #EndSARS violence which raged in some parts of the country for about two weeks and in which 57 civilians as well as six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed, 196 policemen injured, 164 police vehicles destroyed and 134 police stations razed.

” Some 269 private/corporate facilities were also burnt/looted/vandalised, 243 government facilities burnt/vandalised and 81 government warehouses looted.

” Eight medium security custodial centres in six states (Edo, Lagos, Abia, Delta, Ondo and Ebonyi) were attacked while 1,957 inmates were set free, with 31 staff injured.

” Tragically, this needless violence was initiated and orchestrated by purveyors of fake news and misinformation who latched on to the efficacy of the social media as a tool of mass mobilisation.

” There were instances of how purveyors of fake news used the social media to guide arsonists and looters to certain public and private properties while pictures of persons, including some celebrities, who were supposedly killed at the Lekki Toll Gate by soldiers, were circulated.

” Some of those who were reported killed , however, came out to refute such claims.

” This is why recognising the critical importance of fact checking in tackling fake news and misinformation, we at the News Agency of Nigeria have set up a full fledged fact checking desk to ensure that only news copies that meet the billing get to our numerous subscribers,” Ponle said.

The Director-General of NOA, Dr Garba Abari, described fact checking as one of the preventive measures to combat the menace of disinformation, misinformation and fake news.

These, Abari said, were capable of heating up the polity and destroying the very fabric of national peace and unity.

“Prevention, not cure, may be a more effective way to combat misinformation and one of the most effective means of prevention is to build people’s capacity to fact check.

“Evidently, it is better to prevent misinformation from spreading at all than to try to debunk it once it spreads.

“Even when we have been told that the misinformation is false, research suggests it continues to influence our thinking.

“So, it helps to take a page from medicine. Prevention, not cure, may be a more effective way to combat misinformation,’’ the NOA boss said.

The Chief of Naval staff, Vice-Admiral Awwal Gambo, blamed some of  the prevailing national security concerns on the challenges of fake news, misinformation and disinformation.

Gambo, who was represented by Rear Admiral Vincent Okeke, Director, Naval Transformation, Naval Headquarters, Abuja, said that the manace of fake news and misinformation had continued to threaten the peace and unity of the country.

He commended the NOA for organising the capacity building programme on fact checking, saying that the workshop would go a long way in tackling fake news and misinformation in the country.

Mr Austin Aigbe, an official of the Centre for Democracy and Development, urged the participants to educate others in order to complement efforts aimed at curbing misinformation in the country.