The Presidential Spokesperson, Mr. Femi Adesina and the Spokesperson to the Minister of Justice, Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu have unveiled a fact-checking report by PRNigeria on EndSARS protest.
The book “101 Fake News on EndSARS” which is edited by Dahiru M. Lawal, a staff of PRNigeria, identifies major fake news items that contributed to the massive destructions after the peaceful EndSARS movement turned to violent protests nationwide in 2020.
Mr Femi Adesina while commending PRNigeria for mentoring young journalists on the ethics of journalism and for contributing to national discourse through book publishing, urged traditional media to be more careful because the digital media appear to be dictating the pace for the traditional media.
He said “Fake news is a problem not only to Nigeria but to the whole world. The traditional media should be careful of fake news because we must first have a country before digital media can be useful to us. We must not allow digital media to be used to destroy our country. Digital media is good, but there is evil embedded in it.”
Also speaking, Dr. Umar Gwandu, the media adviser to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, urged professional journalists not to allow quacks to dictate the pace of information dissemination because doing so would be a disservice to the country.
The Editor-in-Chief of PRNigeria, Yushau Shuaib, who reviewed the 207-page book, said it was intended to highlight the threat of fake news to societal peace and security.
He said the book questioned the reliability of the accounts of some of eyewitnesses on casualties which are published by some media to give credibility to fake reports.
Shuaib said most of the fake news report are not just to misinform but are deliberate disinformation geared at blinding the mind, reinforcing sentiments, aggravating anger, and inducing mob attacks, even against our security agencies, statutorily responsible for our protection and safety.
In terms of the spread of the fake news items across the geo-political zones, the book revealed that about 51 fake news emerged from South-West, while 20 came out from the South East and South-South and 16 from the entire North including Abuja and 8 items from outside the country.
On fake news peddlers, the report discovered that social media influencers constitute about 40% of those who spread the fake news, social media users constitute about 39%, while the media (including local and foreign) has 15%, and Institutions contributed a paltry 6%.
The fact-checking tools deployed to confirm the veracity or otherwise of the identified fake news include the social media users that identified 16 fake posts, Fact-Checking System detected 44 fake news items while the media confirmed the falseness of 41 stories.
The timeline of the dissemination of the fake news items indicates that about 24% of the fake stories were posted on social media between October 1 to 19, 2020 that is pre-Lekki Shootings. On the other hand, 76% of the fake news were shared post-Lekki shootings, that is between October 20 and November 30, 2020.
The author of the book, a fact-checking specialist, Dahiru M. Lawal said he was a supporter of EndSARS movement before it was hijacked by hoodlums to wreak havoc in violent protests nationwide 2020.
Lawal, and an award-winning campus journalist said the violent protests were triggered by fake news. He noted that some of the victims of fake news included public figures, celebrities, politicians, the media, religious bodies, and several other institutions, among others.
“For instance, Prof. Wole Soyinka, and Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi had to issue statements and release video to debunks some allegations, credited to them. Similarly, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu and Nyesom Wike took an immediate step to debunk fake news about them.”
The book advocates strong laws to check fake news because it constitutes a potential threat to democracy and national unity. It also charged the government at all levels to create sustainable jobs as a way of getting youths positively engaged, adding also that social media must be deployed to dispel rumours effectively.