The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has again raised alarm over the rising cases of fake news and misinformation which it said was capable of having a negative impact on the management of elections in the country if not nipped in the bud.
The commission described as distasteful, its experience with fake news, hate speech and misinformation during the 2023 general elections, adding disinformation is being used to provoke religious and tribal sentiments which has already polarized the country.
The national commissioner and member of the Information and Voter Education Committee of the Commission, Prof Kunle Ajayi disclosed this while speaking at a two-day capacity-building workshop for members of the INEC Press Corps.
The workshop with the theme “Ethical, Safety Practices and Critical Issues Relating to the Kogi, Imo, and Bayelsa Governorship Elections” is sponsored by the Development Alternatives Incorporated (DAI).
Prof Ajayi said elections-related disinformation has become a major strategy used by nefarious individuals and groups in the political space to manipulate the general public to their advantage, regardless of the consequential effect such propaganda may have on the peace and stability of the electoral process and the country at large.
He said: “I would like at this juncture, to draw the attention of the media to a crucial issue that poses a serious threat to the election process in Nigeria. That is the issue of fake news.
“The Commission’s distasteful experience with fake news in the 2023 General Elections has shown that, if not nipped in the bud, fake news can become the bane of election management in Nigeria.
“The alarming prevalence of misinformation, ‘fake news’, hate speech, and the weaponization of disinformation has become very worrisome to the Commission.
“Disinformation is used to provoke religious, political, and tribal sentiments in an already polarized society such as ours, especially, during election season, which is often the leading cause of electoral violence and uprisings.
“Election-related disinformation has become a major strategy used by nefarious individuals and groups in the political space to manipulate the general public to their advantage, regardless of the consequential effect such propaganda may have on the peace and stability of the electoral process and the country at large.
Team Leader for DAI, Rudolf Elbling said the media was an essential part of any democracy, adding that a democratic election without the media is impossible as they act as a crucial watchdog to democratic elections, safeguarding the transparency of the process.
He explained that to fulfill their roles, Journalists need to maintain a high level of professionalism, accuracy, and impartiality in their coverage, stressing that transparency is required on many levels including for access to information; accountability, and legitimacy of individuals, institutions, and processes themselves; and for rightful participation and public debate.