From Obinna Odogwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and International Press Centre (IPC) have called on Nigerians to join hands in the fight against disinformation and misinformation which they said was a serious threat to the 2023 general elections.
They made the call at a stakeholders meeting organised in Abuja by IPC, lead partner of component 4 (Support to Media) of the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria – Phase II (EUSDGN II) project.
No fewer than 40 stakeholders drawn from the media and the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) attended the event chaired by Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim, chairman of the Editorial Board of Premium Times and Senior Fellow of Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD).
National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Festus Okoye, lamented that the spreading of fake news on a daily basis by unscrupulous individuals with the target of misinforming the electorate was posing serious threats to next year’s polls.
“As we continue to prepare for the 2023 general election, the commission will rely on the support of all stakeholders and friends of Nigeria to overcome the identified challenges. Resort to misinformation and disinformation will not help in the growth and sustenance of the electoral and democratic process. All critical stakeholders must rise and fight the spectre of misinformation and disinformation. It is important to verify information before sharing.
“The commission believes that the antidote to fake news is greater openness and transparency. While the commission remain true to its commitment to openness and transparency, the media and all the critical stakeholders must resist deliberate falsehood aimed at delegitimising the commission and the electoral process.”
Executive Director of IPC, Lanre Arogundade, said the stakeholders’ interface was centred on countering electoral misinformation and disinformation which may harm the 2023 elections if left unchecked.
“The interface is holding within the context of the need to make appropriate strategic response to the twin-menace so that the worst of information disorder do not envelope the electoral landscape.
“For us in the media, it is also a straight forward case that we cannot effectively perform the function of providing citizens with the information they need to make informed choices at elections, if the same citizens are confused about what to believe and what not to believe.The media task in the above regard, is further complicated by the penchant of the politicians to tell blatant lies to score cheap political points.
“The matters arising from this interface will also contribute to the design of appropriate fact-checking tools and messages through short videos, hackathons and other ICE materials on combatting fake news in the electoral process. The fact-checking of claims by politicians under the on-going monitoring of media coverage of 2023 elections, the establishment of a fact-checking unit in IPC’s news portal and media resource – the Nigeria Democratic Report, the empowerment of citizens with the knowledge to detect fake news, etc, are the other activities by IPC geared towards sanitising the electoral information space,” Arogundade said.