By Rotimi Ijikanmi
Abuja, July 2, 2018 (NAN) The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has raised concerns over what it called the “fake news’’ phenomenon and the possible impacts on the 2019 general elections in Nigeria.
Mr Jamie Angus, the Director of BBC World Service Group, who featured on Monday’s edition of Channels TV programme, “Sunrise Daily, ” said desperate politicians would use the opportunity of the elections to plant and spread malicious stories.
Angus noted that fake news and disinformation had constituted a huge challenge globally, particularly in Africa and Nigeria, because of people’s trust and belief in the social media.
He said fake news were being spread for economic reasons, especially on social media, where efforts were often made to attract people to pages and timeline.
Angus said that more worrisome “ is the spread of fake news to create and aggravate ethnic and communal clashes and tensions.’’
He said that there were instances when people faked the stories of BBC and other credible media organisations.
“For instance, during the Kenyan elections, people put in some fake version of BBC news report and shared them on Facebook and Whatssapp for political gains.
“What we can do is to educate the people and appeal to them not to share news until they are sure of the source and confirm it is the truth,’’ he said.
To tackle the challenge of fake news, the expert encouraged people to fall back on the most trusted news brands they could rely on for their news sources.
He also advocated increased standard of education and media literacy.
“We must endeavour to educate the young people in particular on what is trustworthy and what is fake,’’ he said.
“ Media literacy is key in this regard.
“It is also important for people to invest more in making journalists to partner with reputable and credible international media organisations,” he said.
Angus also said government must find ways to support its core traditional media for acceptability over the social media.
“Nigeria must find a way to ensure that its national newspapers and TV stations are sustainable to practise quality journalism that will be acceptable to people.
“When you do that successfully, you will consider good independent regulation of the media; with this it will reduce the attention that the fake media get,” he said.
He further advocated penalty for maliciously published items.
Angus disclosed that BBC had opened a new Bureau in Lagos with 200 journalists engaged on the new language services in Igbo, Yoruba and pidgin to complement the existing English and Hausa services.
He said the BBC would play a big role next year in making sure that malicious fake news did not spread during the Nigerian elections.
“Our main role is through broadcasting; we are neither the regulator nor are we the government adviser.
“We want to get the genuine news stories out there to Nigerians, which is our single largest audience more than any other country in the world.
“With 34 million people a week consuming BBC news in Nigeria, we are delighted to be partners with the country.
“We want to use our news contents for this and provide debate here in Nigeria for you guys to discuss yourselves and provide solutions,’’ he said.
Angus gave an assurance that the BBC would continue to educate the people on the phenomenon and danger of fake news and disinformation. (NAN)