In a bid to address the issue of information disorder during elections, a Nigeria-based fact-checking platform, FactCheckElection engaged journalists on an approach to tackling political misinformation as well as disinformation ahead of the country’s 2023 election.
The hour-long discussion, which was one of the numerous engagements hosted by the organization in the fight against misinformation, was held on Twitter on the 17th of December, with the theme; “Journalism and Election”.
The discussions were centered on the roles of journalists to distort the misinformation cycle before, during, and after the election period.
The last Twitter Space discussion had an experienced South African journalist, and broadcaster Rebecca Phala as a guest speaker to discuss issues around the nexus between journalism and democracy; the roles of journalists during elections (with a special focus on Nigeria), and how journalists can engage and educate citizens on media literacy.
Phala also stressed the need for journalists to always do due diligence, and verification while maintaining objectivity during election coverage. She also urged journalists to shun sensationalism and focus more on the real issue. She also spoke extensively on how misinformation and disinformation can impact election outcomes.
According to Phala, journalists should engage the audience in a way that would allow them to impact the outcome of elections positively. “This can be achieved by giving out undiluted, unbiased, and objective reports or news” Phala added.
The South African journalist stated that many journalists write sensational news because their platform is owned by a politician and to get clickbaits, while noting that media is heavily the major determinant of an election, Phala said, “Media can make or mar an election.” She noted that a trained journalist cannot afford to mar elections, therefore, he/she needs to be trained and be ethical in his reporting.
While emphasizing the ethics of reporting, Phala said, a journalist is expecteupholdphold the ethics of journalism – accuracy, impartiality, honesty, fairness, and balanced reporting.
She, however, advised journalists should shun sensationalism especially before, during, and after elections all in the name of increasing ratings and earning money from sponsors.
The South African journalist noted that sensationalism makes the media lose its credibility, adding that they believe that such reporters had been paid off by politicians to make them look good in the eyes of the people. She added that it is one of the factors that predispose journalists to harm especially during the election period, saying, to ensure the safety of journalists, they should work against mis and disinformation and be objective and practice responsible journalism at all costs.
She advised journalists to verify the information and sources until they are proven right to shun misinformation costs. “Treat pieces of very information with skepticism until proven right. Fact-checking emphasizes that we remain skeptical about our survival. Without the effort of fact-checking, we surrender each of our realities to others.
While acknowledging the activities of FactCheckElection, Phala expressed satisfaction in seeing young African media practitioners fighting misinformation.
She said, I am glad to be having this conversation with young African media practitioners who have the passion to fight misinformation. Seeing this reminded me that passion surpassed everything.”
FactCheck Elections is an independent, non-partisan, and non-profit fact-checking platform with a vision to verify claims and debunk fake news around electoral activities in Nigeria using research, data, and technological tools.
The platform uses innovative research, data, and technological tools to fact-check manifestos and claims made during debates, monitor election results, and present findings in short articles, infographics, pictures, videos, and social media posts. The exploits and activities of the platform has gained global appearance with the publication by IJNet written by one of Nigeria finest journalist Kabir Adejumo weeks ago.