The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has called for stronger collaboration with the media to combat fake news, accusing several unnamed media organisations of publishing fake news without attempting to crosscheck the facts.
The electoral body said on Tuesday in Akwanga, Nasarawa, that the collaboration would also minimise misinformation and disinformation about the electoral process.
The chief press secretary to the INEC chair, Rotimi Oyekanmi, said this at a two-day capacity workshop for the electoral commission’s press corps, with a focus on “ethics, safety, practices and critical issues relating to the Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa governorship elections.”
Mr Oyekanmi said misinformation and fake news were among the major challenges INEC faced during the February and March elections. He said the trend threatened democracy and was not limited to social media alone.
“Some conventional mediums also fell for the fake news or misinformation that emanated from the social media,” said Mr Oyekanmi. He recalled how some citizens and social media influencers spread fake news regarding the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, the collection of Permanent Voter Cards and the recruitment of staff for INEC.
There were also some falsehoods related to ethnicity and the elections, he added. He said many journalists also fell for such fake claims because of sentiments and individual prejudices.
“We had many situations where fake news got published without any form of verification. No questions asked about their authenticity,” Mr Oyekanmi said. He said journalists were responsible for reporting facts without taking sides on every matter, including the election process.
“Facts are sacred. It is fundamentally important to present accurate and verifiable information. Journalists have a responsibility to report facts without distorting them to fit a particular narrative,” Mr Oyekanmi explained. “The public relies on the media for truthful accounts of events.”
Mr Oyekanmi added that a strong collaboration between INEC and the media was critical for a proactive approach to curbing fake news, disinformation and misinformation.
He urged the media to be factual, objective, truthful and fair in their reports on the electoral process.
“Conducting free, fair, credible and inclusive elections is a collective responsibility. INEC will continue to provide the media with access to the relevant information it requires,” added Mr Oyekanmi.