The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other key stakeholders have said the Nigerian journalists, especially from the new media, have a critical role to play in ensuring free and fair elections next year.
Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu in a keynote address at the 6th annual conference of the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP) on Thursday in Lagos said election is a multi-stakeholder activity, calling on members of GOCOP for continue partnership in the Nigerian project by helping to sensitize Nigerians and the electorates.
“As campaign activities get underway, the media will continue to play an important role. A lot of the activities will take place in the media of which the new media is a critical player.
“We must continue to work together against the spread of fake news, misinformation and disinformation that seek to create or exacerbate tension or de-legitimise processes and outcomes.
Speaking on the theme, “2023 Elections: Managing the Process for Credible Outcome,” Prof. Yakubu insisted that journalists can make or mar the exercise through their reportage.
“Journalists play a critical role in the development of any nation. It is the journalists that help us to disseminate information to the public and help to form opinions which can make or mar.
Former Inspector General of Police, Dr. Solomon Arase in his own remark stated that GOCOP must lead a network or alliance of stakeholders to curb fake news engineered by unpatriotic individuals.
“Fake news is a threat to national security and all hands must be on deck to check it. Managing this process requires, in part, concerted efforts.
“If the information is false, it can destroy the nation, but if it is true, it can help to shape the nation. The vital role of journalists cannot be over-emphasized. All of you here are representatives of various media organisations in the country.
“The aim of this brainstorming is to let you know that you have a critical role to play in ensuring accountability during the elections”.
Earlier in his remarks, Chairman of the occasion, Dr. Umar Ardo, Founder, Centre for Alternative Policy Perspectives and Strategy (CAPPS), stated that the media has a critical role to play in the 2023 general elections.
He charges GOCOP to help tackle the issue of fake news which he described as a threat to national security.
“The new media must help create a conducive environment through unbiased dissemination of information to the general public while shunning sensationalism,” he added.
“We are happy to note that you have your peer review mechanism using your leaders to regularly remind every member of the need for credible journalism. This is highly commendable. We urge you to extend this beyond GOCOP to serve as a bulwark against the menace of fake news.
In her welcome address, President of GOCOP, Maureen Chigbo said the conference theme was aptly at this particular time because general elections are less than four months away.
She assured INEC and other stakeholders that GOCOP is committed to the project, and will help in informing the Nigerians of all activities of INEC at ensuring a free, fair and credible election.