Sahara Reporters on Friday the 5th of March 2021 released a fake report that the Nigerian Customs Head, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd) collaborated with a Nigerian Businessman, Alhaji Nasiru Danu, to steal N51Bn from the Nigerian Customs Service. As interesting as the story may sound, no facts were presented. All were the work of fiction. As has now been revealed, the contents of the story were fabricated.
In the same vein, similar online platforms regularly use fake news to go after top politicians and businessmen; blackmailing and extorting them, with no challenge from regulatory agencies, government or even legal processes. This dangerous trend should be checked as the damage caused by fake news can be irreversible.
Unfortunately for Sahara reporters, Nigerian businessman and philanthropist, Alhaji Nasiru Danu has decided to take the bull by the horns and has commenced legal proceedings against them. After confirming allegations in the Sahara Reporters story were false, Lawyers acting for Alhaji Danu have written to Sahara Reporters, giving the online platform 7 days to
1. Retract the defamatory publication on all its distribution platforms
2. Tender an unreserved apology to Alhaji Nasiru Danu which shall be published in 3 National dailies for 7 consecutive days
Failure to comply might see Sahara Reporters facing a tough legal battle. This issue has sent shock waves around the media industry as Publishers and Editors have stepped up their news verification strategy, before publishing.
It is unclear how this will end, if an out of court settlement will be the resolution or whether it will be a fight to finish, but either way, the stage is set to begin to hold people accountable for their actions. An anonymous source from a fellow online platform told our reporter that it is the likes of Sowore and his team that give the industry a bad name. “They write to gain cheap publicity and financial relevance without a concern for the truth. We all criticize, it is part and parcel of journalism, but for it to be constructive, it has to be based on facts.”