Hate Speech, Disinformation, Fake News, Political Tools To Discredit Govt. – Minister

Deputy Governor of Plateau State, Prof. Sonni Tyoden; Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai mohammed and Acting Permanent Secretary, Federal Information and Culture, Mr Hussaini Dayar at the opening ceremony of the Extra-Ordinary Meeting of the National Council on Information in Jos
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The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said
the growing cases of hate speech, disinformation and fake news in the
country are being orchestrated by naysayers and their sponsors to
discredit the government, destabilize the polity and make the country
ungovernable

The Minister made the statement at the Extra-ordinary Meeting of the
National Council on Information (NCI), which has the theme ”Hate
Speeches, Disinformation, Fake News and National Unity”, in Jos,
Plateau State, on Thursday.

”The campaign (to discredit the government) is a multi-million naira
project and the people behind this string of hate speech,
disinformation and fake news are not about to stop. In fact, they will
become more vicious in the days, weeks and months ahead,” he said.

Alhaji Mohammed blamed the resurgent push for separatism as well as
the rising cases of ethnic and religious disharmony on the ”growing
phenomenon of hate speech, as well as the disinformation and fake news
campaign”, and warned that hate speeches and incitement to violence
set the stage for the genocide that left at least 800,000 people dead
in Rwanda in 1994.

He traced the worsening cases of hate speech in the country to the
period leading to the last general elections, when the then
presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC),
Muhammadu Buhari, was the target of a vicious campaign.

”Never in the history of electioneering campaign in Nigeria has such
a quantum of hate speech been directed at any candidate. This did not
stop even when he won the election and became President. For instance,
the President had hardly left Nigeria for his vacation in London on 19
January 2017, during which he said he would have routine medical
check-up, when these hate and fake news campaigners circulated the
news that he has died. Between then and now, they have repeated
similar fakes news times without number,” the Minister said.

He cited three instances of disinformation and fake news targeted at
him, including when he was quoted as saying the government does not
know who will sign the 2017 budget, when what he said was that when
the budget is transmitted to the presidency, a decision will be taken.

Citing other instances, Alhaji Mohammed said: ”On Wednesday, 26 April
2017, after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, I
briefed State House Correspondents on what transpired at the meeting.
I said, among others, that President Muhammadu Buhari did not preside
over the day’s meeting because he decided to work from home that day.
In reporting my briefing, one of the correspondents quoted me as
saying the President would work from home henceforth, rather than on
that day only.

”Also in May 2017, I travelled to China on official assignment. I had
just arrived in that country, after a long flight, when I started
receiving calls from Nigeria, seeking my reaction to a story making
the rounds in the Social Media, quoting me as saying that though
President Muhammadu Buhari is in a London hospital, he is using
Made-in-Nigeria drugs. I purportedly made the comment in an interview
with Channels Television, after the Federal Government’s launch of the
Made-in-Nigeria campaign in Abuja a few days earlier.

”At first, I chose to ignore the story, saying Nigerians would easily
see the folly of it. But the phone calls from Nigeria became more
frequent and more intense, to such an extent that they could no longer
be ignored. I had to put a call through to Mr. John Momoh, and
Channels Television promptly issued a rebuttal, saying it neither
interviewed me nor
carried any such story.”

On the way forward, he said Nigerians must say NO to hate speech and
boycott any medium that is used to spew hate or that engages in
disinformation and fake news, adding that if left unchecked, the
canker-worm of hate speech, disinformation and fake news is capable of
undermining national unity and pushing the nation to the precipice.

The Minister also told the delegates to the meeting, which included
government information managers from all the states of the federation,
that every state must emulate what the Federal Government has done,
through acting President Yemi Osinbajo, who held a series of
engagements with key stakeholders to calm frayed nerves in the
aftermath of the quit notice recently issued to section of the country
by northern youths

”We must be resolute in tackling the canker-worm of hate speech,
disinformation and fake news. We as government information managers
must embark on a relentless campaign against these evil tendencies at
our various levels, whether federal or state,” he said, adding that
the regulators must also be alive to their responsibility by
sanctioning erring media outlets

”Yes, our constitution allows freedom of speech and this government
believes in it, but freedom of speech must not be allowed to become
freedom of irresponsibility,” Alhaji Mohammed

While appealing to the media, especially the traditional media, to
repudiate the purveyors of hate speech, disinformation and fake news,
he announced that the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture will
soon launch a series of engagements with the media to sensitize them
to the dangers posed by the phenomenon.


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