President Muhammadu Buhari has called on media practitioners to save Nigeria from doom resulting from hate speech and fake news that have now dominate social media space in the country.
In a statement marking World Press Freedom today, May 2, President Buhari regretted that social media and some mainstream media have been practicing journalism profession with careless abandon, to the detriment of professional ethics.
Reflecting on the theme of World Press Freedom Day 2020: “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation,” President Buhari said that Nigeria has a very unhealthy dose of disinformation, fake news, hate news, purveyed by people who use media platforms, particularly the digital variant.
“They don’t mean well for us, and no country can afford to close its eyes to the evil disinformation can cause. In a plural polity like ours, it has the potential to rupture relationships, sow seeds of discord, and set on the path of destabilisation.
“When fake and hate news are added unabashedly, it can only signpost doom. “I urge the Press to use the occasion of World Press Freedom Day to see how this can be vigorously tackled.”
Buhari said that his government would not however be pushed to apply the big stick on fake news, hate speech and rumour mongering peddlers, stressing that the government is committed to the ideals of freedom of the press.
He noted that democracy thrives better in an atmosphere of transparency, as opposed to opacity.
“We appreciate the cooperation we have enjoyed from the media in tackling the Coronavirus, and look forward to same, post COVID-19, when all hands must be on deck to repair the damages done to our economic and social lives.
“We cannot overemphasize the role of the media in keeping people informed and educated on the pernicious virus, which has no friend or foe. It simply seeks to mow down anyone and everyone in its path, and public awareness is very important, lest we become like sitting ducks.The media are doing this quite effectively.”