Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has commended Nigerian media outlets that have set up platforms to fact-check stories that circulate in the nation’s media space saying this is one sure way to contribute to the fight against fake news and misinformation.
Alhaji Mohammed made the commendation on April 12, 2022 in his remarks during a courtesy visit to his office by the executives of the Nigerian Chapter of the International Press Institute (IPI) led by its president, Mr. Muskilu Mojeed.
Welcoming the Nigerian Chapter IPI executive to his office, the Minister congratulated them and wished them a successful tenure
He said he has had a good relationship with the IPI since assuming office as the Minister of Information and Culture in 2015. To prove this relationship, he said he attended the 2016 annual congress of the IPI in Doha, Qatar, during which, together with IPI, Nigeria kickstarted the process that led to its hosting of the 2018 edition of the IPI World Congress in Abuja.
He added that the hosting of that world event also meant that officials of the IPI Nigeria and the Ministry had regular consultations toward the event, which Nigeria successfully hosted and that the visit of the IPI Nigeria Chapter executive was a continuation of that cordial relationship.
Citing the IPI mission of defending media freedom and support independent journalism wherever they are threatened, he said he presumed that mission statement will also guide the operations of IPI Nigeria and the new executive.
Saying that IPI had nothing to fear in defending media freedom and supporting independent journalism, the Minister claimed that Nigeria has one of the most vibrant and free press in the world.
He recalled saying at the opening of the 2016 IPI World Congress in Qatar that “the government of the day in Nigeria is not a threat to the media, and that it is not about to stifle press freedom or deny anyone his or her constitutionally-guaranteed rights,” adding: “That statement remains true today as it was then.”
The Minister said “if anything – it is the government that is at the mercy of the media.”
Speaking on the issue of fake news, he said it needs to be taken seriously before it strips the media of its credibility. The Minister warned that if people can no longer believe what they read, hear or watch on the various media platforms, then we are all in trouble.
He said this is why Nigeria launched the national campaign against fake news and misinformation in 2018, adding that before then, his Ministry we had devoted the entire National Council on Information in 2017 to the issues of fake news and misinformation thereby succeeding in bringing the problems to the front burner of national discourse although, according to him, they have not abated.
He lamented that some people have misconstrued government’s efforts to ensure a responsible use of social media as an attempt to tamper with press freedom or threaten independent journalism, saying government does not harbour such intentions, and that is why it invited stakeholders, including the NUJ and the Nigerian Guild of Editors, to sit down with it to fashion a way forward in this regard.
The minister added that Nigeria has “reached a robust agreement with Twitter, which will be extended to other social media platforms, as part of our efforts to ensure a responsible use of the social media.”
He appealed to IPI Nigeria not to relent in its promise to take a holistic look at the issues of fake news, credibility and ethics, among others.
The President of IPI Nigeria, Mr. Mojeed, had in his remarks said the visit was part of a series of engagements with governmental and non-governmental organizations to enhance independent journalism and operating environment for journalists and media organizations in Nigeria.