In a free and rambunctious social media world nothing appears to be freer than the spread of fake news. Just like wild fire, fake news spreads faster than credible news. Subsequently, information users across the world are regularly faced with the problem of drawing a line between fake news and the actual story. As simplistic as this might appears, getting a balance between it polemics and semantics appears to be quite daunting. The dilemma of political operatives now is how to promote what appears to be true in the face of what seems to be wrong. Sadly, nothing much has been done in this regards either due to the ignorance of the political elite or the academic laziness of the masses. One thing is however certain; fakes news is killing our world and nobody sincerely cares.
The historical metamorphosis of the term fake news is a contentious issue in the literature, nevertheless, President Donald Trump constantly made reference to the phrase in describing the purported vilely reports against his administration as it relate to his dealing with Russia. Fast forward to 2020, fake news has now become a buzz word used by political operatives, journalists and ordinary people alike and it purveyor of course is the social media. What is true or false in our contemporary world now is a matter of what satisfies our bias. Many have argued that fake news is an offspring of media apathy on the part of public officials. However, one cannot ignore the adventure of destructive writers who writes stories that only exist in their figment imaginations just for the purpose of causing panic and anxiety.
However, owing to the continuous rise of crass, standoffish and condescending governments in developing countries, one can hurriedly conclude that fake news is a product of decrepit democracies in nihilistic societies. Suffix to say, representative democracy, rule of law, popular participation and freedom of press which democratic state is known for has lost it stings to chauvinism, nepotism and authoritarianism. Thus, governmental operations have now become more clandestine while freedom of press can be said to be a hoax. Consequently, speculations, rumours, fallacies or call it whatever name you like has now become a manipulative instruments in the hands of politicians through which fake news are been peddled. Interestingly, Nigeria’s experience continues to presents a standard political laboratory on this anomaly.
President Buhari in his message on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day had lamented that Nigeria has unhealthy dose of disinformation, fake news and hate news. While the President message succinctly captured Nigeria’s present day reality. However, the president failed to acknowledge how he tacitly becomes an accomplice in this menace. For instance, it is not often seen in any democracies across the world in which a president would develop media apathy over matters of national importance. But here in Nigeria, since the inception of this administration, President Muhammadu Buhari had not shown any leadership responsibility in the area of communicating with the people that he claims to lead. Sadly, the president media managers have not even fared better in projecting the image of the president. The horrendous pronunciation of covid-19 as “covik one nine” by the President says it all. The scatter gun approach of handling Aso Rock information continues to earn the presidential media aides knocks from Nigerians, whilst in the opinion of Femi Adeshina; President Buhari’s media aide, any critique of the government is “wailing wailers”. The resultant effect of this media apathy by Mr. President in a dysfunctional state like ours is that a fertile ground is created for fake news to strive. Just as noted by Christina Engela “if you stick your head in the sand like you don’t exist, why get upset when the world agrees with you.”
The grouse of this article is that governments can’t stop the citizens from forming opinion(s) about her, especially when they are not getting the right information as to how they are being governed. Thus, it beholds on the government to make available relevant information that will help to promote governance in the country. The president must put aside all communication barriers between him and the people in other to ensure openness. A government that is determined to curb fake news must be ready to demonstrate all sense of responsibility, accountability and opaque at all times. The leadership function of communication is paramount and such responsibility can’t be delegated to aides. Therefore, there must be a constant dialogue or interactions between the leaders and the citizens especially at a time like this when hope appears to be fading away.
Abolaji Adeniran is a Media Enthusiast and a Public Policy Analysts