A media expert, Mr David Ajikobi, has advised journalists to rise above the menace of fake news ahead of the forthcoming Edo and Ondo governorship elections by verifying any information received before publication.
Ajikobi, who is Nigeria Editor of AfricaCheck, an independent fact checking organisation, gave the advice at a media capacity building webinar organised by the International Press Centre (IPC) on Friday in Lagos.
He spoke on the topic “Rising Above Fake News and Hate Speech and the Imperative of Fact-Checking during Forthcoming Elections’’ at the webinar sponsored by the European Union through its support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria.
Ajikobi said that journalists must always ask questions and verify the veracity of any news and information they received.
According to the AfricaCheck boss, there are different vested opinions and interests who are ready to do anything to misinform people.
Ajikobi said: “For any information – check the author, the source, the date, ask the experts i.e INEC and political parties. Always verify before you go to press with what politicians tell you.
“The problem of misinformation is universal, it is not unique to Nigeria. False information can make people sad, happy, violent, angry and an array of other emotions.
“If you are biased, the audience will also be biased and the people/issues you are reporting on will also be biased.
But if you understand your bias and get rid of bias, it will help you make your work more transparent.”
He defined fact-checking as the checking of the accuracy of content in the public domain such as articles, social media, voice notes, video etc.
Ajikobi added that claims by organisations, public figures, political parties and also the media should always be subjected to further check.
“You can’t be everywhere during an election, you will still need social media but in using it, you have to learn how to triangulate, verify author and ask questions,’’ Ajikobi said.
Also speaking during the webinar, Editor-in-Chief, Guardian Newspapers, Martins Oloja, said that the only way to be conflict sensitive was to be factual.
“Journalism is at its lowest ebb, people do not believe in us and the only way we can reinstate trust is through the presentation of facts.
“Facts are sacred, comment is free. Journalists must separate their opinions from facts,” Oloja said in his presentation on the Imperative of Issue-Oriented, Citizens-focused and Professional Reporting During Elections.
He urged journalists to embrace data journalism by using infographics, data and facts to measure good governance and service delivery in the build up to elections.
Also speaking, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, Spokesperson for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), said the electoral body’s new portal for viewing election results had been test-run in the recent Nasarawa Central Constituency bye-election.
Oyekanmi said that results from all polling units would be posted on the portal at the close of elections where everyone would have the opportunity of viewing the portal.
In his welcome address, Mr Lanre Arogundade, IPC Executive Director, said that the webinar was to promote issue-focused, gender-sensitive, conflict-sensitive, fair, ethical and professional reporting of elections by journalists.
Arogundade added that giving access to disadvantaged or under-represented groups such as women, youths, rural dwellers and people living with disability was also part of the initiative.
“Part of what we had to do was to monitor newspapers and online media coverage of electoral processes and elections – which we did for a two-year period between April 2018 and April 2020.
“This was to identify the strengths and gaps in media reporting and use the outcome as engagement tools to build media capacity in credible election reporting,’’ Arogundade said.
The IPC boss said that the Nigeria Media Code of Election Coverage had been endorsed by all media umbrella professional associations and bodies, as well as over 200 media outlets.
He urged all journalists covering elections to be extremely familiar with all the five sections of the Code of Election Coverage.
The Edo and Ondo governorship elections will hold on September 19 and October 10, respectively. (NAN)