Curbing fake news critical for a better society – Emeka Opara

3 years ago | 30

Media men and women make a case for journalists to be more professional in order to avoid the web of fake news By Emeka Ejere Media and public relations practitioners have been urged to use their platforms as tools of saving the world from the devastating effects of fake news, propaganda and alternative facts as doing otherwise can cause irredeemable damage to humanity. Emeka Opara, the director, corporate communications, Airtel Nigeria, who stated this on Friday, January 25 at a workshop on “curbing fake news, propaganda and alternative facts”, described fake news as “falsehood deliberately passed off as truth for economic, political and emotional gains.” There have been upsurge of fake news in recent times with the astronomical increase in social media penetration both in Nigeria and across the globe. It has become even more worrisomely rampant as Nigeria’s general election approaches. Opara, who was the lead speaker at the workshop, charged public relations professionals to sit up and take back their jobs from lay people both in public and private sectors, saying that will help in preventing fake news. According to him, fake news, which is sometimes fraudulently credited to known personalities, is deceitful and incisive, damages reputation, causes disaffection, create panic, causes crisis, heat up the polity among other debilitating effects. On how to curb fake news, Opara called on the media to lead the campaign against the ugly trend by creating the necessary awareness, adding that offenders should be punished in accordance with the Cybercrime law of 2014. “One fake news can damage marriages, businesses, friendships. Then why should perpetrators of such act be spared from the full weight of the law,” he said. Earlier in her opening remarks, Eniola Mayowa, the vice chairman, the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, NIPR, described fake news as “a bomb that can destroy the whole world if we are not careful.” She urged individuals and organisation to endeavour to tell their stories, so that others do not tell them with additions or subtractions. “Fake news thrives when the real news is not there”, Mayowa argued. In her contribution, Janet Mba Afolabi, a veteran journalist, regretted that many media houses these days no longer make use of gatekeepers, while many employ gatekeepers who are not skilled enough to distinguish between fake news and real news. Setting the agenda for the day, Monday Ashilogwu, chief executive officer, The Republic Media Limited, organisers of the workshop, explained that the gathering became necessary in view of the fact that fake news poses a threat to everything about life. He noted that one of the major works of his organisation is to monitor those who are fund of spreading fake news, saying plans are underway to begin to publish names of such people on a name-and-shame chart.  

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