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

From left: 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 Councilon Information in Jos on Friday.

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

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
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.