The executive director services, Kaduna Refining and Petrochemical Company (KRPC), Dr Abdullahi Idris, has said that the biggest threat to democracy in the world is fake news.
Idris stated this at the 6th KRPC annual media practitioners workshop tagged: Ethics, professionalism and Credibility in Media Practice: The Intervening Variables of Fake News and Hate In Nigeria News Coverage.
According to Idris, the theme of the workshop is centered on misinformation commonly called “fake news” coupled with the spread of “hate speeches” which are, in his opinion, the biggest threats facing democracies around the world today.
“It is true that the existence of misinformation is not new, nor is the susceptibility of people to be deceived by it. Mark Twain, the famous US author, once said, “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Nowadays, however, social media has exacerbated the problem, accelerating the speed at which false stories spread, creating “digital wildfires” of misinformation,” Idris said.
While urging media practitioners to uphold the best ethical standards, Idris said: “The news may be fake but the consequences are real, and they are serious.”
“They may come in the form of mobs attacking innocent people or religious, ethnic bigotry, people being profiled on the basis of their political affiliations or sexual orientation,” Idris said, adding that it was the reason KRPC focused this year’s training on unraveling fake new and it’s consequences now that the 2019 general elections are close.
“But there is another negative impact that is harder to detect,” Idris said, adding, “I am speaking of the slow deterioration of respect for facts that takes hold when we are submerged in a fake news environment.”
“When this happens; debates around public policy are framed largely by what “feels” true and what correlates with people’s pre-existing set of beliefs and prejudices, which can often be disconnect from actual facts and the specifies of policy.”
“This is a gravely serious problem, because for a democracy to function well, it requires a citizenry that is well-informed and operating on the same set of basic assumptions,” Idris said.
“Facts do exist. They are out there; we cannot operate without them. Moreover, I believe that the vast majority of people still value and want truthful information. Our challenge, then, in the face of the growth of misinformation and fake news, is to help people separate fact from fiction. You, my friends, are the key to this effort,” Idris added.
The manager, Public Affairs, KRPC, Alhaji Aminu Mustapha Dameji said the recent happenings portend that journalism is in danger of being overwhelmed by rogue politics and a communications revolution that accelerates the spread of lies, misinformation and dubious claims.
“But the problem for journalists is not just the rise of the internet behemoths and the impact of technology. The crisis they face is that news in its traditional formats has become unfashionable, and that the media business no longer makes money out of news.”
“The communications revolution provides people with different ways to access information and they create their own filters for information they like or don’t like. Newspapers has controlled news and advertising markets over the years, but digital technology has changed everything. Display and classified advertising have moved online and so far no convincing solution has been found to the problem of filling the ever-widening gaps in editorial budgets.”
“In the face of this crisis media have made lacerating cuts in their editorial coverage. News gathering has become a desk-bound process. There is less money spent on investigative journalism and investment in human,” Dameji added.