A day after the Vatican announced the transfer of Bishop Norman King’oo Wambua of Bungoma diocese to Machakos, another ‘news’ circulated online, that Fr Peter Maingi Mutune had been appointed bishop for the catholic diocese of Kitui.
The news caught many by surprise, I included. It was a Sunday night; I called my editorial team and planned how we were going to run the news the following day as breaking news.
Turned out it was fake news!
The social media is today flooded with fake news stories. Whether it is a falsification about an archaeological discovery, an allegation of criminal activity by a company, or a ploy to demean a political figure, it is amazing the lies people will tell – and believe.
These fake stories, often with very convincing details, spread like wildfire.
Ideally, fake news, is a term is used to refer to fabricated news, which can be found in traditional news sources, social media or fake news websites. These kind of news have no basis, but are presented as factually accurate. This term came into fashion after U.S. President Donald Trump used it to describe any news he found unfavorable to him.
Many have fallen victims of fake news, the Catholic Church included.
In April this year, Archbishop Romulo Valles, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines fell victim to fake news, which quoted him as warning priests and nuns not to interact with politicians. Monsignor Dario Edoardo Vigano resigned earlier this year as head of the Vatican communications office over a fake news controversy.
Fake news is detrimental. This kind of news have already brought down families, associations, governments, and even destroyed many innocent lives.
Out of this concern, Pope Francis made “fake news” the focus of this year’s World Communication Day, marked on May 13 under the theme: “The truth will set you free’ (Jn 8:32). Fake news and journalism for peace.”
In his message, the pope compared the use of fake news to the Bible story of the devil, who, disguised as a serpent, persuaded Eve to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree. He said she was fed wrong information by Satan.
Fake news is here with us, it is the new evil in our society.
Governments and private institutions should come up with laws to curb fake news and come up with ways to unmask what could be called the ‘snake-tactics’ used by those (purveyors of fake news) who disguise themselves in order to strike at any time and place.
There should also be initiatives by the media and technology companies to verify the identities of people who are hiding behind these digital profiles.
As we use social media we need to confirm that what we are sharing or consuming is credible. As Christians we must refuse to be purveyors of fake news whether on social media, by word of mouth, or through any other form of public expression.
The news of the transfer of Bishop Norman King’oo Wambua from Bongoma diocese to Machakos, threw our editorial team off balance. It came at the time we were getting ready to go to press for this issue.
We had interviewed him earlier in May and there was no clue he would be transferred.
It would be worthwhile to note that he still remains the bishop of Bungoma until he sets foot in Machakos.