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Who’s the fool now? Davido prank no laughing matter

On April 1, K24 Digital published a fictitious story claiming that Davido, an American-born Nigerian singer, had been detained at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport after police found narcotic drugs worth Sh18 million on his private jet.

K24 Digital claimed that the Afrobeats star was found with 3kg of cocaine and detained alongside seven other people who were travelling with him. The report was attributed to a fictitious individual identified as Maju Nyawawa, allegedly the ‘head of the Anti-Narcotics Police Unit’.

In what turned out to be an April Fool’s prank gone wrong, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations published a screenshot of the article with a red stamp reading ‘Fake News’. But K24 Digital mocked the DCI saying: “Were you fooled? We know our friends at @DCI_Kenya were fooled.”

Kenya Report, an online publication, also carried the same story but with the headline ‘Fresh details emerge after Davido’s dramatic arrest at JKIA’. They deleted the post a few hours later.

Crime Watch Zimbabwe, an X account that publishes updates on crime, entertainment, politics, and current affairs, picked up the story but attributed it to K24 Digital.

Davido, whose real name is David Adedeji Adeleke, had been in Nairobi for Raha Fest, where he was the headline performing artist.

A day later, Davido issued a statement on his Instagram page refuting the allegation. “It has come to my attention that false reports regarding an arrest circulated online leading to a barrage of calls. I want to assure you that these reports are entirely untrue. I have never been arrested by anyone in any country for any crime. Not in my home Nigeria, my home America or any of the hundreds of countries I’ve made home throughout my career.

“I find the fabrication of allegations of such international crimes extremely irresponsible regardless of the light of ‘April Fools’ and my lawyer is seeking legal recourse against the media parties responsible for generating this misinformation.”

What do we learn from this? An April Fool’s prank must be within the confines of the law and “it was just a joke” does not suffice as a defence.

The publication of false information, which is likely to harm the reputation of a person, is a criminal offence under section 23 of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act. A person may sue for civil defamation if they believe their reputation has been tarnished by the alleged defamatory statement. Sharing/repeating libellous statements can also land you in trouble.

Possible consequences include award of damages or retraction/apology.

In 2016, lawyer Nelson Havi sued Headlink Publishers for libel and was awarded Sh6 million in damages after the court found that there was recklessness and malice on the defendant’s side. There are many other examples of court cases against media houses.

Davido is within his rights to pursue legal action because the article insinuated that he had a haul of dangerous narcotics and that he was in police custody, yet he was not, infringing on his rights to protection against false statements.

Maybe it’s time the K24 Digital team underwent a refresher course on defamation to avoid future incidents of recklessness.

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