The Head of Mass Communication Department, Ibrahim Babangida University, Lapai, Niger State, Ternenge Ende, has said fact-checking is a must-have skill for all journalists to curb the increasing spread of fake news in Nigeria.
The adept lecturer disclosed this on Saturday 6th of August 2022, while delivering a lecture at the 2022 Press Week in Minna, a program organized by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Niger State chapter, the theme is ‘Fact-Checking to Curb Fake News: Tasks Before Niger State Journalists amidst Security Challenges.’
Ende emphasized that accuracy relies heavily on checking and cross-checking. He noted that fact-checking is a specialized and crucial field in journalism and that every journalist must learn to always fact-check a claim before disseminating their information to the public.
He said, “Journalism practice has always underscored verification of materials before dissemination. The axiom ‘when in doubt, verify’, is always drummed in the ears of journalism trainees.”
Ende also referenced Tom Rosentiel and Bill Kavach’s book (The Elements of Journalism), emphasizing the centrality of verification in journalism, he added that fact-checking means a scientific approach to getting not just the facts but the right facts.
The Fake News Syndrome
Nigeria GrassrootsNews understands that misinformation contributes to many of Nigeria’s crises over time including the 2020 revolutionary #EndSARS protest that rocked the country. Fake news has also aggravated the Fulani and farmers’ crisis in the southwest. Ende noted that disseminating fake news is an instinctive trait embedded in human DNA.
“Human beings lie up to 200 or more times daily, and also an average person lies about the same number of times a day. Such lies are generally grouped under white lies or seemingly inconsequential half-truths.” He said quoting Jerry Jerrison, a psychologist at the University of Southern California.
Domesticating FOIA for Niger State journalists
In 2011, Nigeria’s former president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, passed the Freedom of Information (FOIA) Bill, putting a smile on the adjuncts of the Fourth Estate of the Realm. 10 years later, Ekiti and the Imo States, according to The Guardian, also domesticated the bill. However, the other 34 states including Niger State are yet to pass it into law, but Niger State is walking its way through its domestication, according to Dr. Emmanuel Musa.
The state’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Dr. Emmanuel Musa, who equally spoke at the event, hinted at the state government’s quick plan to domesticate the FOIA. He said the full implementation and domestication of the bill would strengthen journalists in the state to fearlessly request information without bias.
“We in the state, especially the Ministry of Information and Strategy in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice are working assiduously to see that FOIA 2011 is domesticated,” he said.
Musa noted that journalists should have fear of God while discharging their responsibilities. By this, he urged them to always balance their reports and seek appropriate data to authenticate their facts.
He also charged the government at all levels to make data available to journalists “to ease their job, especially, in the aspect of casualties recorded in times of insecurity and among others.”
Abubakar Sani Bello, the Niger State Governor, represented by the Secretary to the Niger State Government (SSG), Ahmed Matane disclosed that his administration is not disputing the trend of insecurity in the state, “several reports on social media regarding insecurity are false.” he said.
He revealed insecurity and the spread of fake news have made the state lose several investment and trade opportunities. “Fake news has provided an unnecessary perception about what is truly going on about insecurity in the state, many investors have refused to come to the state, and the state has lost so many opportunities in terms of investments,” he noted.