Worried by the frequent circulation of fake, insensitive and inciting information that many Nigerians engage in to heat up the polity, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Civil Society Organisations, Campaign for Democracy and Development (CDD), as well as, media practitioners have harped on fact-checking any information they get on social media to ascertain their veracity and ensure a peaceful 2023 election.
The warning was part of the resolutions at the end of a two-day Capacity Building for Journalists and Civil Societies Organisations and the INEC at a workshop held at Ikeja in Lagos State.
In attendance were the Director of CDD, Idayat Hassan, represented by Mr. Austin Aigbe, (Senior Programmes Officer), the National President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Comrade Chris Isiguzo, Comrade Leye Ajayi, and Comrade Demola Babalola of Lagos and Oyo NUJ Councils, and about 65 participants drawn from media houses and CSOs across the South West.
Speaking on: “Conflict Reporting, 2023 General Elections and Countering Fake News”, the CDD Director stressed the need for sensitization of both journalists and CSOs to disseminate factual and objective news in order not to trigger or escalate conflict through their reports.
The stakeholders, who advocated there should be a law that provides for adequate protection and life insurance for journalists and CSOs before and during the polls, however, recommended that peace journalism be practised and dissemination of unverified news items which portends danger for the survival of the nation’s democratic rule be avoided.
The spread of fake news, according to the stakeholders, was capable of setting the nation on fire, citing a fake letter purportedly written and circulated by INEC, indicting the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as an example.
In a communique issued at the end of the workshop, the participants warned against churning out of mis-information, dis-information, and mal-information, urging that any news item, photos, videos shared should be fact-checked through ‘Whois, Forensically, Deepware, TinEye, Google lens, Wayback machine’, etc before re-publishing in any conventional traditional media platforms.
The meeting commended the INEC for the successful conduct of governorship elections in Osun and Ekiti states, especially with the use of the new technology; the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BIVAS), which has restored the confidence in the electorate that the 2023 general elections would be a huge success.
It was thus recommended that electoral observers/reporters should avoid languages that can trigger or escalate tension, but endeavour to give fair hearing, equal space, time and opportunity to all political parties in their reports.
“Nigerian media and CSOs should consider public interest as guideline in reporting conflict events, as well as, embrace peace journalism/mediation as a way of strengthening Nigeria’s democracy,” the communique stressed.