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Misinformation, fake news as damaging as terrorism – Minister

The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Alhaji Mohammed Idris, says that misinformation and fake news can be as damaging as the activist of terrorists.

Idris said this at a two-day workshop on “Effective Reporting: Towards Strengthening Alternatives to Terrorist Ideology” organised by the National Counter-Terrorism Centre – Office of the National Security Adviser (NCTC-ONSA), on Tuesday in Abuja.

The training was organised in collaboration with the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR).

The minister said that the media commanded an immense power to influence minds, shape narratives, and promote peace.

He added that the media could either undermine or bolster the collective efforts to provide alternatives to extremist ideologies in the fight against terrorism.

He said that journalists had the unique ability to educate, inform and inspire resilience among the public through their reports, images, and commentaries.

According to him, terrorism is not merely a physical threat.

“It is an ideological battle of the mind with the extremist groups exploiting vulnerabilities and spreading fear,” he said.

He added that the extremist groups also propagate messages that presented them as fighting for a social cause, in order to further their evil agenda.

Idris said there was the need to offer compelling, positive alternatives that resonated with the same audiences targeted by terrorists, adding that reporting played a pivotal role in this.

He urged the Defence Correspondents/Reporters to work closely with security experts, sociologists, psychologists, and community leaders to provide a multi-faceted perspective on terrorism and its alternatives.

He also challenged journalists to use data and research to back their stories, thereby enhancing credibility and depth.

“At all times, the media should uphold the ethics of journalism by being objective and fair and guard against sensationalism.

“You must also respect the dignity of victims and affected communities and void language that could be construed as biased or inflammatory.

“Please note that sensational reporting can inadvertently glorify terrorist acts and spread fear.

“Similarly, misinformation and fake news can be as damaging as the terrorist acts themselves and you must avoid this at all cost,” he said.

The minister commended the NCTC-ONSA for its proactive efforts in the fight against terrorism as well as the numerous successful rescue operations of kidnap victims, which he said were devoid of publicity.

He also commended the NCTC for its sustained strategy of regular engagement with the media, in advancing the frontiers of the fight against terrorism.

This approach, according to him, significantly contributed to shaping public perception and understanding of the complex issues surrounding terrorism and national security.

Idris reiterated the commitment of President Bola Tinubu’s administration to free and responsible journalism and pledged continuous support through access to accurate information, regular media briefings, and training opportunities.

“Together, we can create a strong, united front against terrorism,” he added.

The Secretary, Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), FCT Council, Mr Ochiaka Ugwu, commended the centre for the engagement, saying the media had remained committed to the promotion of national security.

Ugwu said the ungoverned spaces in the country had continued to fuel insecurity in different parts of the country.

He added that there must be collaboration between the media and the military, security agencies and the authorities to cover those ungoverned spaces. (NAN

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