By Omolara Omosanya
Journalists, newsroom managers and bloggers have been advised not to allow themselves to become tools to spread disinformation as the 2023 general election approach.
The Nigeria Editor, Africa Check, Mr David Ajikobi who gave the advice in Lagos during a Fact-checking masterclass for journalists, cautioned them against becoming amplifiers of disinformation and misinformation from politicians, especially on narratives around ethnicity, religion or tribe.
“Evidence based public discourse is very very important, that is the only way we can ask critical questions when we are talking about the forthcoming elections, it would be issued based, right now, it is not very issue based, I know that campaigns have not started in full swing, but it should be issue based, it should be about the policies that Mr or Mrs or Miss X is going to bring to the table, is it feasible, the historical data and things like that, it should be issued and evidence based, we think if that happens, we as journalists and editors will not be amplifiers of narratives and disinformation and misinformation from politicians” he said
Citing the Kenyan post election crisis which was fueled by disinformation, Mr Ajikobi stated that Africa Check organized the fact-checking master class with support from the United Nations Democracy Fund to equip Nigerian journalists with tools to detect and fight disinformation and misinformation which usually have life changing impacts on citizens.
He said “the elections are less than a year away, and we are already seeing how misinformation and disinformation is going to play a big role and it’s already happening now, we’ve seen evidence in 2015, we saw evidence on 2019 and we think 2023 will even be more problematic, but our hope and prayer is that as we train journalists and media organisations to detect and fight disinformation and misinformation, they would also better inform their audiences, when there’s an infodemic some people are making money using this information to drive some narratives, but we think that’s unfair because these information have real life consequences”
On the importance of fact-checking to the media industry, a researcher at Africa check, Mr Allwell Okpi emphasized the need for newsmen to verify information before publishing as incorrect data have far reaching consequences.
“We have seen wrong statistics quoted again and again by different organisations, different individuals and people actually make very important decisions with such statistics especially when you put it out online, years to come people from different climes who have never been to or come to your country will find out online and make their decision about what’s happening in that country, that could have real life consequences in many cases” Mr Okpi stressed
Some of the participants who shared some of what they gained from the highly interactive two-day training with Radio Nigeria said the acquired knowledge would reflect on their jobs as individuals and hopefully on their media organisations.
The participants who were selected from diverse media organisations also expressed optimism that proper fact-checking would boost the integrity of the media and restore the waning confidence of the Nigerian public in the media.