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Fact Finding and Fake News: Global threat to the media

By Timileyin Omilana

Truth in journalism – piecing together the facts, vetting sources and connecting the details, is “hard” but it is more important now than ever because the effect of fake news is “harder”.

Fake news presents a growing threat for societies across the world. Only a small amount of false news is needed to disrupt a conversation, and at extremes it can have an impact on democratic processes, including elections.

Without delving much in the disinformation and propaganda that characterized Nigeria’s 2019 election, that the sitting president was forced to refute repeated claims that he had died and a clone was now running his office, we can establish that fake news is already becoming a big threat.

Most recently, President Muhammadu Buhari was again subjected to another concoctions of the fake news peddlers. Now, he was supposed to tie a knot with a serving minister on Friday, 11th of October, 2019 and that his long-aged wife Aisha Buhari was locked up in a room, on her return from London, to avert her trouble against the wedding.

But did Buhari really marry another wife? A fact-check was required to authenticate the “facts” and reveal if Nigeria was on the edge of having a new First Lady.

Checks by The Guardian Nigeria, revealed that even the supposed new missus, Sadiya Umar Farouq, minister of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development, was not in the country on the supposed wedding date and more concretely a presidential spokesman also denied claims of such wedding.

But shall we continue to live with this perilous situation?

What can we do to avoid fake news, at a time when we could be waiting a while for mainstream media and social networks to step up and address the problem?

These concerns led to why the Goethe-Institut Nigeria, a Federal Republic of Germany’s cultural institute, is organizing two events designed to “lend a critical voice and a Nigerian perspective to the global campaign against the alarming increase of fake news worldwide.”

The events are designed to lend a critical voice and a Nigerian perspective to the global campaign against the alarming increase of fake news worldwide.

The first event, The 101 of Fake News & Fact-Finding in Nigeria, is a one-day conference that is specifically designed for journalists with the aim to examine and discuss various aspects of ‘Fake News’ while the second event – a panel discussion, entitled Fake or Fact? Disinformation & (New) Media in Nigeria which is organized in partnership with the Alliance Francaise de Lagos, is open to the public.

Five notable journalists and fact-checkers, Lolade Nwanze, Head of Digital operations The Guardian Nigeria; David Ajikobi, Nigeria editor, Africa Check; Victor Mathias, Channels TV presenter; Mayowa Tijani, Business and Development Editor, TheCable; and ‘Fisayo Soyombo, former editor of the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), will lead highly interactive sessions that focus on a wide spectrum of topics.

The discussion will include theoretical sessions in which the characteristics and effects of Fake News in Nigeria will be identified and debated and more practical sessions that provide tools in order to spot and combat the spread of disinformation in the newsroom and beyond.

The first event will be held on Wednesday, October 16th, from 10 am to 6 pm, in the Event Hall of the Goethe Institute, while the second will hold at the AAF/Mike Adenuga Centre (9, Osborne Road, Ikoyi) on October 22nd, from 7 pm to 10 pm.

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