Home » How a Fake News Story Caused a Dollar Withdrawal Frenzy in Ghana

How a Fake News Story Caused a Dollar Withdrawal Frenzy in Ghana

The accused are charged with publication of false news and abetment of crime respectively.

by Motoni Olodun

Two men are facing trial in Ghana for allegedly spreading a false news story that triggered a wave of panic withdrawals among dollar account holders in 2022. The story claimed that the Bank of Ghana (BoG) would force customers to convert their dollars to cedis at a fixed rate starting October 31, 2022.

The accused are Jeffrey Eppirim Nyame, a blogger, and Jeremiah Kobina Egyebeng, an IT professional. They are charged with publication of false news and abetment of crime, respectively. Their alleged accomplices are still on the run. They have both pleaded not guilty and are currently on bail for GH¢20,000 with two sureties each.

The case is being heard at an Accra Circuit Court presided over by Mr Isaac Addo. The court listened to the testimony of Police Detective Sergeant Nach Kyeremeh of the Cybercrime Unit of the Ghana Police Service, who was cross-examined by the defense lawyer, Mr Gregory Kwadwo Asiedu.

According to the witness, the police received a verbal complaint from the BoG about the fake news story, which had caused many customers to rush to withdraw their dollars from various banks. The witness said the police traced the source of the story to Nyame’s news portal, reportghana.net, which he shared on several WhatsApp groups and social media platforms.

The witness said Egyebeng had created the news portal for Nyame in 2019 after Google had shut down his previous one, reportghana.com, for violating their community standards. The witness said the police asked the accused to lead them to the original author of the story, but they failed to do so.

The fake news story was published in 2022 amid President Akufo Addo’s warning that those who spread false information about the economy would face the law. The story caused fear and confusion among dollar account holders, who feared losing their money due to currency fluctuations.

The BoG had to issue a statement to debunk the story and assure customers that no such policy was in place. The BoG also urged customers to ignore such rumors and report suspicious activities to the authorities.

The trial of Nyame and Egyebeng is one of several cases of fake news that have plagued Ghana in recent years. In 2021, a similar story claimed that the BoG would freeze all mobile money accounts due to an electronic transaction levy introduced by the government. The BoG also had to refute this claim and warn the public against falling for such hoaxes.

Fake news is a global problem threatening democracy, security, and public health. According to a report by Afrobarometer, about half of Ghanaians say they encounter false or misleading information on social media at least once a week. The report also found that only 39% of Ghanaians trust the accuracy of online information.

Experts recommend that people verify information from multiple sources before sharing it, especially if it sounds sensational or alarming, to combat fake news. They also advise people to be critical of their biases and avoid spreading information confirming their preconceptions.

There is also a need for more media literacy education and awareness campaigns to help people distinguish between facts and opinions and between credible and dubious sources. Moreover, regulators and platforms have a role to play in enforcing ethical standards and holding perpetrators accountable.

By working together, citizens, journalists, authorities and tech companies can help curb the spread of fake news and promote a culture of truth and trust in Ghana.

Source: MyJoyOnline

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