NASSAU BAHAMAS — Insisting that fake news and misinformation on social media presents a growing threat to democracy and its electoral process, Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis said yesterday there is a collective responsibility to return values of morality, integrity and “flawless honesty” to society.
It was an apparent reference to the Minnis administration’s election win last May.
During the campaign, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) strongly accused the Free National Movement (FNM) of using social media and political activists to spread anti-PLP propaganda and “fake news” about the Christie administration.
“Unfortunately, we as a people have a growing number of selfish… individuals who lack integrity; who manipulate others for their own success; who despite the damage that they may cause others, continue to spin fake news to stir and to unsettle people,” Davis said at a church service at Bethel Baptist Church in honor of Reverend Dr. Timothy Stewart’s ascension to president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention of the United States.
“Fake news is now seen as one of the greatest threats to democracy, free debate and the western order. Misinformation, spin… and deceit have been around forever, however, their unique marriage with social media and advertising systems demonstrate the extent to which people are prepared to fabricate stories for prizes that range from fast cash to winning an election.”
Numerous attendees exclaimed at the statement.
The opposition has blasted the Minnis administration for acting contrary to key election promises, including increasing value-added tax (VAT), the proposed two per cent payroll tax to fund National Health Insurance (NHI), and the Oban Energies deal for an oil refinery and storage facility in East Grand Bahama.
In opposition, the FNM opposed the introduction of VAT and said raising taxes to increase government revenue was lazy.
In July, the Minnis administration increased VAT from 7.5 per cent to 12 per cent.
In February, the government signed a heads of agreement with Oban without completing an environmental impact assessment.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis later admitted his administration made missteps with the deal.
The government hopes to amend the agreement.
Yesterday, Davis said, “We have a duty to bring humankind back to a high morality, great integrity and flawless honesty. Indeed, there is nothing perfect under the sun, but we must improve our behaviour for ourselves and for our future generations.”
The PLP leader suggested the church has a critical role to play in this effort.
“We must do all that we can to regain our moral compass,” Davis said. “Continue to lift your voice for social justice, for the ideal of truth and in service to the poor…
“We cannot remain within the walls of church buildings when so many people are waiting for the gospel. [The place of] ministry is in the streets. It is not enough simply to open the door in welcome because they come.
“We must go through that door to seek and meet the people.”
Addressing Stewart, Davis said he must never forget that sheep need shepherding.
“Everything that is required for the wellbeing and safety of the sheep, whether protecting, leading, guiding, feeding or clothing, this is your fulltime duty,” he said.
“It is not an easy undertaking. For you, I pray for passion, conviction and continued dedication to your calling and to Jesus Christ…”
Stewart, the pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, was elected as president of the convention in August.