Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has urged media practitioners to address the issue of fake news and provocative information.
Osinbajo, who made the call when he hosted media practitioners to a special appreciation dinner on Thursday in Abuja, also pledged improved engagement with them.
The vice president said the advent of social media had made the issue of fake news complex, noting that “fake news or provocative information can cause chaos, civil unrest, war or even death.”
“I think all of us in the media, social media, print, TV, all of us, should begin to do something serious about fake news before it begins to consume us, ” he said.
He called on media practitioners to be curious about fact checking and do simple but thorough investigation over any contentious issue for the public to know the truth.
Osinbajo said that the lies about President Muhammadu Buhari’s certificate went far and deep because no one bothered to unravel the truth early until it got to the court.
“Just take the allegation of Mr President’s certificate for example, someone said Mr President did not have a certificate but Mr President said he sat for and obtained his West African School Certificate in 1961 at the Kastina College.
“The examination body then was Cambridge University, the same Cambridge University we know. I expect any media organisation to do a simple investigation to establish whether it is true or not.
“But nobody did it, and the matter went to court,” he said
He said that there was also a time a WAEC official was asked about the certificate on television and he said he was not the one that signed it.
“And the television said that the WAEC official denied Buhari’s certificate, which is false, completely false.
“It sounds funny because the WAEC official only knows about WAEC certificate, but this is a West African School Certificate by Cambridge University.
“But because nobody bothered to find out, the public believed the lies for so long.
“So with the increase of social media and anonymity every day the problems of the free media are becoming more and more complex and even more dangerous,” he said.
The vice president, who also solicited for greater support from the media, pledged to improve engagement with them.
He said that one of the books he co-authored as a law lecturer was Media Law in Nigeria.
“I am a believer in the freedom of the press, whether it a responsible press or irresponsible. I just believe in the freedom of the press.
“Every morning, I receive a summary from most of the newspapers, I also receive trending news from social media from my media assistant.
“Added to that, I also receive a special pack that contains latest news, cartoons or insult from the social media,” he said
He said that atimes, some of the cartoons or social media comment were very insulting and provocative but they never bothered him because of his belief in press freedom.
The dinner brought together the leadership of the National Assembly, governors, ministers, heads of government agencies and presidential aides.