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A Bi-Monthly Newsletter on Information Disorder and Fact-checking: March 30, 2020

4 mins read Going beyond fact-checking – Get the latest news & updates on misinformation, likely-to-be-false news and how government policies affect you!

4 mins read

At this juncture, you have probably realised COVID-19 in the media is here to stay. And perhaps you are tired of it, tired of the name? Okay. For the rest of this letter, we’ll denote the menace with our very own moniker- CV. However, we shall not be focusing on statistics and heart-wrenching updates; we will rather delve through concepts and implications as they affect you. 

Compromised Leadership

Over the past week, we have seen a rise in falsehoods claiming who and who got CV and did not report in. One news publication supposed that 15 house of representative members tested positive with CV; this was false. Shortly after, one blog site dropped a pretty heavy conjecture- Yahaya Bello tested positive with CV- to which the Governor vehemently rebuffed. Then on Thursday, March 26, a WhatsApp audio message claiming Buhari and his Chief of Staff both positive with CV fled the country for treatment; this again was a baseless supposition as sources in the presidency debunked it. 

So beyond the “clickbaitery” of these sites and perpetrators of misinformation looking for attention, is there more to this? And, does it reflect the state of Nigeria’s citizenry? One of the rhetorics we came across is the inaccurate statistics tale. This rationale figures that consequent on the corrupt nature of our leaders, our laissez-faire attitude and the fact that CV is asymptomatic, there are way more cases than the stats suggest. The conjecture, though not entirely baseless, goes one step further. Enter, the leaders’ conspiracy notion. A notion that indicates the media is hiding the CV statuses of some prominent heads. Is this true? Who knows? What we know is Abba Kyari, President Buhari’s Chief of Staff tested positive for CV and falsehoods increased tenfold!

Prevention, delay and containment

The truth is we need to focus more on what next rather than who’s got it. This rationale holds as the WHO’s advice suggests this menace is here and we have to deal with it. Enter, the “flatten the cure” method which aims to reduce a cluster of casualties at once so as not to overwhelm the health sector. The thinking acknowledges the problem but proffers a solution, and a good one at that; the only one we have yet- prevention, delay and containment.

Alternate Reality

Let’s play make-believe for a second. Say our president tested positive for CV, this is not far-fetched right? After all, Prince Charles, Sophie Trudeau (who has now received the all-clear for CV) and a few other prominent heads in the West tested positive for CV. So why should it be unthinkable there would be similar occurrences in the Global South? Say there is, what good then will this information do for Nigerians? In our last edition, we explored themes around the subjectivity of truth and instances when the hidden truth might be what the country needs. Does a country rife with instabilities and a pandemic need more panic? Bear in mind that this is all make-believe, not fact- something to muse over. 

Martial Law vs Civic Duty

We already established our strategy to cope during this pandemic- prevention, delaying and containing the inevitable. But how do we efficiently enforce this tactic? What are other countries doing? Flogging their citizens into submission– this is the tactic New Delhi Law Enforcement chose. A bit harsh, some say, but it works for them. They are not the only ones, though- implementing lockdown initiatives. And, reports suggest its efficacy. After all, Wuhan- ground zero- which reportedly shifted from diagnosing thousands daily to just one case last week Tuesday- indicated plans to end lockdown April 8. Similarly, Italy, the scapegoat of Europe, as they also show the ravaging impact of the pandemic to be slowly decreasing, post two weeks mandatory lockdown. 

In truth, a lot of analysis surmise CV casualty rates and spread to delayed action and second-guessing. So, with all these initiatives by Western states and even some African countries, is it perhaps time for Nigeria to consider a scheme of her own? A well-informed counter-strategy to combat this menace, and not an excuse to purport violence as in the case in Lagos; or do we leave it to the goodwill of citizens? While there are reports of a lockdown that commences 11 pm today (in Abuja and Lagos) for two weeks, we are yet to see its effects and if it covers all the bases.

#FAKENEWS ALERT

There’s precious little that we can do about the barrage of misinformation that we see daily, but there’s a lot we can do together if we learn to identify suspicious claims in the news and refrain from fuelling the fire by spreading them! Here are our top picks of likely-to-be-false news which [sadly] couldn’t be fact-checked.

We don’t know about Azithromycin, but we have emphasized enough on the health authorities’ stand on the use of chloroquine as a cure for coronavirus. At the moment, the WHO has not endorsed any drug as a potential or active drug against the virus. Hence, we advise that you disregard this claim.

Do not share these messages without confirming from credible sources. If the news is true, It’s going to be on major news platforms in the country. It is also important to mention that the claimed source can not be trusted.

There have been misconceptions about how to use a facemask but actual and correct directives are available on WHO’s website. Moreso, Fact-checkers have debunked this claim before.

This claim has got us wondering, For how long does the sanitizer stay on the skin before it dries up? What quantity of sanitizer did she apply? Granted that alcohol attracts fire, but how does it react after it has been mixed with other substances?

Tip of the Week

Share this poster with your friends and family and help curb the spread of misinformation!

Victor Ndukwe is a first-class honours graduate in Architectural Design Technology from the University of Wolverhampton. He was an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists; and a STEM Ambassador. Additionally, he manages a health-fitness centred blog. His varied work experience gives him a unique perspective in the literary field; having worked in construction, Information Technology and conducted extensive research in various fields. He now utilizes this skill set in the field of fact-checking; aiding colleagues and teammates with research and editorial work.

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