By Chikezie Omeje
After about four hours deliberation on the threat of fake news, Nigerian journalists, communication specialists and other stakeholders have agreed to create a fact-checking platform to detect and expose fake news.
Putting across the suggestion at the end of a workshop on “Fake News and the Demand of Evolving Journalism in the Post-Truth Era” organised by the Association of Communication Professionals and Scholars of Nigeria in Abuja on Thursday, the Chief Executive Officer of AfriHub Group, Manny Aniebonam, said the fact-checking platform had become necessary in view of large circulation of fake news in the country.
He said the fact-checking platform would carry out three fundamental tasks of scoring news items, scoring news outlets and providers and scoring individuals that engage in the production and dissemination of news.
Aniebonam, a professor of engineering who presented a keynote address at the workshop said the fact-checking platform would be naming and shaming organisations and individuals that publish fake news as well as warn members of the public on the danger of sourcing news from such media outfits.
Panelists at the workshop pointed out that fake news is not only associated with the social media but also the traditional media, which they noted have become involved in publishing fake news.
A former Vice-Chancellor of Federal University, Otuoke in Balyelsa State, Bolaji Aluko said the greatest aspect of fake news is the headline, noting that sometimes it hardly corresponds with the content. He observed that, sadly, many people do not read beyond the headline.
Professor Aluko warned that fake news could cause war, pointing out the need to find means of sanctioning media outfits that circulate fake news in the country.
Meanwhile, the Director of Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Emman Shehu, said journalists must step up their gatekeeping role and bring back the classical journalism ethos: “When you are doubt, do not publish”.
Shehu said the publication of fake news by mainstream media is due to the failure of gatekeeping, stressing the need for everybody who is involved in the business of news production and circulation to ensure that they stick to facts.
The Managing Editor of Premium Times, Idris Akinbanjo stressed the need for journalists to do a lot of fact-checking before publishing their stories.
He also asked media professionals to deliberate on the fact that many Nigerians still prefer to source their news from media platforms that have credibility issues instead of the mainstream media.
An investigative journalist and former presenter with AIT, Lara Owoeye-Wise, noted that mainstream journalism is in trouble as people sit in their houses and push fake stories on the Internet.
She said the most worrisome development is that some journalists pick up stories from the social media and use it without verification, thereby damaging the reputation of their mainstream media organisations.
Most speakers at the workshop agreed that fake news is a global problem but Nigeria must find its own solution to the menace.
They pointed out that illiteracy, news commercialisation, and non-payment of journalists are some of the issues that make fake news to thrive in the country.