© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
ICIR’s sponsored fake “fact-checking” about fake news
By Farooq A. Kperogi
SEVERAL weeks ago, someone from Lagos alerted me to what he said was a “hit piece” being hatched against me from Bola Tinubu’s media team in Lagos because of my consistently piercing scrutiny of the Buhari fascist monocracy and particularly because I’ve been in the forefront of efforts to call global attention to the unprecedented electoral fraud that birthed Buhari’s illegitimate “second term.” I told him I was already used to that. But he said, “This would be different.”
When, weeks later, a “Damilola” who said she was from “SaharaReporters” sent me a vacuous, grammatically challenged WhatsApp message about videos I shared on Twitter in February, I didn’t suspect anything. I should have. The questions weren’t just astonishingly illiterate, they were also curiously unprofessional. She wrote, “Sir, we would like to know how you got this information or maybe you even witnessed them.” Something told me the “reporter” was some two-bit mercenary scammer, so I sent a WhatsApp message to Sahara Reporters’ Omoyele Sowore to ask if he had any person by the name of “Damilola” in his reportorial corps.
I told him I was curious because Sahara Reporters built its fame on the strength of stories it wrote based on anonymous sources and on the protection of the confidentiality of its sources. Why would it have a reporter doing a story asking someone to reveal his sources? Sowore said he would find out who Damilola was and get back to me. He didn’t get round to doing that.
Weeks after this, a “Damilola Banjo,” along with a Shola Lawal, published a tendentious, poorly written, inaccurate screed on the “International Center for Investigative Reporting” (ICR) website that purports to be a “fact-check” of “social media influencers who shared fake news during the 2019 election.” All the pieces of the puzzles have now fallen into place. This is obviously the Tinubu media team hit piece that someone had alerted me to. By the way, how did a reporter for “SaharaReporters” end up on ICIR? Well, that’s irrelevant. Let’s look at the crying factual poverty and malicious ignorance in the “fact-check.”
So of the scores of videos I shared on Twitter during the 2019 election, the mercenary rube of a “reporter” that goes by the name “Damilola” found only two to be “fake.” The first so-called fake video I shared, which had already gone viral at the time I shared it, merely said INEC officials were mass thumb printing ballot papers. And that was precisely what happened in the video. I didn’t mention the year this happened, and said nothing about what party was a beneficiary of the mass thumb printing because I couldn’t tell that with any certainty, although other people who shared it before me said it was during the 2019 election.
The two “reporters’” needlessly tortuous analysis confirmed that the video indeed showed INEC officials thumb printing ballot papers except that they said it wasn’t during the 2019 election. But I never said it was. I merely wrote: “See shameless rigging by INEC officials: Thumb printing on an industrial scale.” Nevertheless, the “reporters” said I “implied” it was during the 2019 election. Was sort of “fact checking” is that?
You can’t fact-check what’s on my mind. That’s babalawo (or is it mamalawo) journalism! I am capable of saying it was during the 2019 election, but I didn’t. Others did. The fact of INEC officials furiously thumb printing ballot papers on a mass scale in support of a party, irrespective of when it happened, is worth sharing, particularly in light of similar things that went on at the time, which the second video confirmed, as I’ll show shortly. So the video wasn’t fake by any definition of the term. If anything, it’s the analysis of it by the venal, uneducated philistines masquerading as “reporters” that is fake.
The second so-called fake video they said I shared was real even by their own analysis. They confessed that they “set out to debunk many videos we believed to be old or not related to the elections. We were not prepared to deal with actual, blatant rigging, not with the PVCs and not with the improved vigilance that was supposed to be a key feature of the 2019 polls.” If you ignore the atrocious grammar, you will see their bias seeping out like fetid pus. They were disappointed to find the video to be “a recent case.” All I said about the video was: “Why would anyone accept the outcome of an election like this? Democracy is supposed to be one person, one vote.”
They agreed that the video, which clearly showed rigging, was from the 2019 election. Although they claimed they were on a “fact-finding” mission, they conceded that they “cannot emphatically state that those stamping and thumb printing the ballot papers are INEC officials” and that they “could not distinctly make out the party being thumb-printed.” What sort of idiotic “fact-checking” is that? That’s blatant partisan claptrap. They could “fact-check” the thought-processes that resided in the inner recesses of my mind, which I didn’t verbalize, but they couldn’t fact-check an obvious fraud in a video. In any case, my tweet didn’t say INEC officials were thumb printing for APC, although that was what appeared to have happened in the video. So what was fake about my video and why was it the object of their “analysis”? Neither the video nor what I said about it was inaccurate by any stretch of the imagination.
So, although they agreed that the second video is authentic, they went ahead nonetheless to throw juvenile insults at me, such as calling me a “professor of falsehood” and then this: “High profile Twitter account holders such as Mr. Kperogi and Senator Melaye are still active on social media and it is conceivable they will share more fake news in the future. That makes us worry. What will they post next?” What the heck is that? Can’t Tinubu’s media team get smarter mercenaries for their hit jobs than these pitifully lowbrow vulgar buffoons?
They also claimed I shared the videos with my 30,000 plus followers, even though at the time I shared the videos, I didn’t have that number of followers on Twitter. I had only a little over 20,000 then. You would think “fact-checkers” would know that. They also said I have 70,000 plus followers on social media. That’s inaccurate as well. If you add my Facebook fan page and my Facebook “like” page, I have a little over 100,000 followers, but thousands of people have way more social media following than that. In any case, I shared the videos only on Twitter, which were first shared by thousands of other Twitter users before I did. So it’s unclear why they chose to make reference to my social media following.
These nescient, mercenary ICIR “reporters” need an education more than anything else. Their sponsored hit piece purports to be a “fact-check,” but it is gratuitously abusive and opinionated, and is unmoored to even the most basic requirements of journalistic integrity. It imputed motives to me and divined motivations for my action. Fact-checks are usually, well, factual. They present information in a neutral, unemotional tone.
The “reporters” were not even smart enough to conceal their pro-regime biases. The only “fake” videos and photos from the 2019 election they found worthy of “fact-checking” are those that disfavor the Buhari regime. There were no pro-Buhari “fake” videos and photos, apparently. These disreputably illiterate hustlers obviously set out to not just discredit me in hopes of blunting my critical searchlight on the honchos of the fascist regime that hired them, they also want to legitimize Buhari’s universally discredited electoral robbery. In the process, they’re polluting journalism. Such a shame!