The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Press Council, Mr Francis Nwosu, has warned journalists to steer clear of spreading fake news.
According to Nwosu, individuals or groups embraced fake news to ”deceive the public, cause ill feelings, influence views, push political agendas and cause disaffection”.
He warned media practitioners to desist from spreading fake news capable of threatening and jeopardizing the foundations of Nigeria’s democracy.
“It is usually written (fake news) and published with intent to mislead, in order to damage an entity, agency, or to gain financially or politically, using sensationalist, dishonest, and fabricated headlines to increase readership.
“A cursory look at our polity will portray one at the mercy of fake news. Like in some other climes, the issue of fake news has become a serious challenge in our country.
“A school of thought had postulated that there had always been fake news. The difference today is that social media platforms have enabled fake news to spread widely and more quickly than ever before.
“While social media is the biggest source of fake news, the media gives prominence to it through publication of fictitious stories’’, the Executive Secretary said, while urging science journalists to be rigorous in double checking facts and presenting them in simple terms as much as they could,” he said.
In a paper titled, “Fake news: Why Science journalists must stay with science’’, which he presented at the fourth Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) Nigeria media awards in Abuja, Nwosu argued that fake news was both anti-ethical to the journalism profession and injurious to the polity.
In a speech at the event, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, Minister of Science and Technology, called on science journalists to avoid fake news and focus on facts that promote the deployment of technology in agriculture, citing as an example how biotechnology tools, such as genetic engineering, were assisting many countries to address some of the challenges facing their agriculture.
Dr Rose Gidado, Country Coordinator, OFAB said journalists recognized at the event were those doing inspirational work, humanizing science and bringing it to the people for sustainable development in communities and the country at large.
She noted that recognizing journalists in science reporting had never been more important than now, as the spread of false information was becoming the norm, saying that such false and malicious information were meant to undermine the big role science plays in solving present day challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, food insecurity, among others.