Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) has charged the media to join the fight against fake news.



Osinbajo noted that the systemic rot engendered by secrecy and opacity in governance was no longer the main threat to a normal functioning Nigeria, but the proliferation of fake news.


The Vice-President spoke yesterday at the presentation of a book, titled: The Making of the Nigerian Flagship: the Story of The Guardian, in Lagos.


In a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Office of the Vice-President, Laolu Akande, Prof. Osinbajo suggested that the media should approach the fight against fake news by realising the import of their power as the gatekeepers of facts.


The statement reads: “Even as we strive to make governance more transparent and accountable in its workings and to abandon the habits of secrecy and opacity that became deeply ingrained during military rule, we have realised that abuse of state power is not the only threat to liberal tradition. Right now, we also have to deal with issues such as the proliferation of fake news.


“Almost daily, fake news or mischievously manipulated news is trafficked with the clear intent of warping the perception of reality and inducing conflict.

“It is said that journalism is the first rough draft of history. It is true that reportage shapes the perception and understanding of events. It shapes memories and can influence behaviour for good or for ill.”

“There are arguably no bigger influencers than those who report and interpret the world to us. This is considerable power and it comes with responsibility.”

Osinbajo that the media, as the fourth estate, must demonstrate a greater awareness of the society, while upholding the principles of balance, objectivity and fair-hearing.

According to him, while it is true that freedom of expression is enshrined in the 1999 Constitution, society depends upon responsible exercise of freedom.

“Nation-building is not the sole preserve of politicians and governments; in fact, it is just as much a task for civil society of which the press is an important member,” he stated.

Acknowledging the significant role of the Nigerian media in actualising democracy, the Vice-President urged media men to continue to speak truth to power.

“The Guardian harked back to the proud and illustrious tradition of the Nigerian press that practiced journalism with a social mission and a commitment to speaking truth to power. It played an important role in the struggles that birthed our democracy, suffering proscription and the firebombing of its business offices at Rutam House. Alex Ibru, himself, narrowly survived an assassination attempt in which he was severely injured.

“Years later, I confronted the horror of the attack on him myself, when as Attorney-General in Lagos, it was my lot to prosecute his assailants. It was a reflection of the terrible costs that journalists bore as they continued to heroically ply their craft as an act of resistance against tyranny.

“For decades, the men and women that work at The Guardian have drawn inspiration from the immortal words of Uthman Dan Fodio on its masthead: “Conscience is an open wound. Only truth can heal it.” It is the role of journalists to tell the truth even when it is inconvenient. This mission has a special resonance in this day and age.”

While commending the Guardian Newspapers Limited for raising the standards of journalism in Nigeria, Osinbajo noted that there must be a collective effort by media organisations and practitioners to uphold and improve on the quality of professionalism.

The Vice-President commended the authors,”and especially the chief custodian of the legacy, Lady Maiden Alex-Ibru “for broadening our understanding of history, for the appreciation of the present and inspiring the future.”