Fake News: Edo Correspondents Build Capacity on Fact-Checking Ahead of 2023 Polls

Ahead of the 2023 general elections, the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Edo State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, has commenced building the capacity of its members especially in the deployment of technology in election reportage to avoid the pitfall of spreading inaccurate or fake news that could mislead the public using the instrumentality of fact-checking.

State chairman of the Correspondents’ Chapel, Nefishetu Yakubu, at a training programme on “Fact-Checking Information” on Tuesday, noted that election periods were usually engulfed with fake and unconfirmed news reports, which have ther tendency to jeopardise the processes. She said in this era of misinformation, it was the intention of the chapel’s executive to build the capacity of members on how to deploy technology to counter fake news that are more pervasive, particularly on our social media than ever before.

In his remarks at the event, the state chairman of the NUJ, Festus Alenkhe, urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to expand the capabilities of journalists in checking election results in real-time on its viewing portal that was recently introduced.

Yakubu, a correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, stated that “There is no doubt that opportunities now abound in technological innovations, hence these can be used to verify and counter fake news during electoral process”, adding that “Studies have shown that in recent times, technologies have helped to unravel the truth behind some controversial issues in Nigeria’s political space”.

She recalled that “Just a few weeks ago, news about a purported two months extension of the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) by the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) made the rounds in major newspapers, including platforms that have built their reputation and credibility over the years. The report was, however, later found to be untrue. Unfortunately, no matter how close it is, and how “credible” the platform that reported it is, as far as it’s untrue, it’s tagged as fake news”.

Yakubu regretted that scenarios also abound whereby individuals and groups used their social media platforms to peddle fake news around electoral processes, malpractices, electoral violence and even fake election results. These, she posited, have continued to exacerbate mutual distrust amongst electoral stakeholders in Nigeria, the media inclusive.

Consequently, ahead of the 2023 general elections, she said it had become necessary to arm journalists with Fact-checking tools “to expose series of misleading false information, which may be doctored to misinform the public”.

Yakubu therefore charged her colleagues that “as we represent our respective reputable organisations here, we need to master the art of using technology to counter fake news, especially before, during, and after the 2023 election period. We expect that at the end of this training, journalists will begin to take additional steps to verify the veracity of information at their disposal, using the technologies that we are about to be exposed to today. We carefully selected a fact-checking guru as resource person in the person of Mr. Dare Akogun, who is 2021 fellow of Dubawa Fact-Checking.

“I urge you all to take advantage of this training to be good ambassadors of your various organizations, and also help you to counter disinformation/misinformation where necessary for the good of the public”.

The state chairman of the NUJ believed that strengthening the skills of journalists to access election results uploaded from various polling units ahead would go a long way to ensure that accurate results were reported by media platforms thereby limiting circulation of false information that could mislead the public.

Alenkhe counseled that “We should painstakingly verify most of our reports. This is why I want to request INEC to try as much as possible to liaise with the Edo State council of the NUJ to train journalists ahead of the 2023 general elections. We want to be trained in the area of announcement of results because most times, the results we see on the internet are fake.

“We have our own information, but we want to be trained officially by INEC on how the results will be released in 2023. The aim is to enable us go to the site and get the right results so as to reduce wrong information”.

Speaking on the subject matter, Dare Akogun, the resource person, explained that fact-checking is the process of re-verifying information with the intent of determining its correctness, noting that it has become relevant because of the rising level of misinformation peddled through the social media.

Akogun, staff of a private radio station in Kwara State, stressed the need for journalists to separate facts from fiction, verify assertions, and check accuracy before going to press to avoid loss of credibility by media organisations.

According to him, “People trust your imagination as a journalist and they depend on you for accurate information. So, whatever you put out there should be fact with evidence.
Since the 80s when technology started evolving from analogue to digital, the world of information-sharing has consistently evolved.

“With digitisation, comes plurality of media sources. In this age of fake news, everyone who comes in contact with information now has the capacity of consuming and, at the same time, producing the news through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik tok”.

Giving sourcing rules, Akogun posited that named sources are better than unnamed sources; authoritative sources better than random sources; independent sources better than interested sources; verifiable sources better than assertive sources; multiple sources better than single sources; and primary sources better than secondary sources.

Akogu, head of digital unit of the station, identified reverse image search, yandex, Google, bing, Tineye, as some of the tools journalists can apply to verify images in order to determine the authenticity of information shared through photos.

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