Ahead of the 2023 General Elections, stakeholders have charged all journalists in the country to avoid being purveyor of fake news in all its forms.
The conversation against the menace of fake news held at the Police Officers Mess, Ikeja, Lagos was reiterated by security agencies and other stakeholders, at a one-day symposium for journalists.
The event organised by the Lagos State Police Command, themed: 2023 Elections: Fake News and Its Implication on Security highlighted that fake news is a negative trend that must be nipped in the bud because of its potential to mar the 2023 General Election.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Resident Electoral Commissioner in Lagos State, Mr. Olusegun Agbaje noted that fake news poison the mind of the citizenry and could lead to breakdown of law and order.
He said the fake news is also a huge distraction to the Commission and other critical election stakeholders like the security agencies.
Reiterating the position of Department of State Services, DSS, Mr. Agbaje said the spread of fake news and hate speeches on social media poses the biggest threat to the 2023 general elections.
He discouraged the sharing of fake news along with incorrect and inflammatory commentary because of its capacity to lead to violence in the country.
The commission reiterated the DSS position, “What the media and every stakeholders must do is to ensure that the game is played according to rules. Nigerians must avoid any act that promotes hate and disintegration and say no to separatist movement, terrorism, fake news, hate speech, religious bigotry and any act that tends to divide us as a nation. Social media and fake news are biggest threat to human existence not only to elections. Fake news is major cause of violence in our society now. As journalists, you should always fact-check information before publishing. We must understand that Nigeria is the only country we have and every one must put hands on deck to ensure that there is peace. The media should be up and doing in ensuring that peace is restored in the country. Slanting news to achieve ulterior motives should be avoided and I want to assure that the DSS won’t abdicate its responsibilities and would continue to do the right thing no matter whose ox is gored.”
The Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, CP Abiodun Alabi represented by the Deputy Commissioner of Police , Operations DCP Bassey Ewah said that fake news is a menace that must be put in check.
He said this charge was informed by the alarming rate at which fake news has become ubiquitous to the point of raising global concerns, especially as elections approach.
“Electoral disinformation, misinformation as well as the weaponization of fake news along with incorrect and inflammatory commentaries pose a threat to national peace, security and stability,” he said.
“This has even become dicier with the advent of the internet which enables unfettered sharing of information among people on social media. Fake news spreads like wildfire in every facet of the society which if not checked could skew the electoral outcome and disunite the nation.
“We therefore urge the media which is the watchdog of the society to ensure that only verified information is disseminated via their platforms.”
He also urged all journalists to shun fake news, disinformation and misinformation in order to ensure fake-news-free election in Lagos State and the country at large.
Present at the symposium are IPAC, NBA, NBC, DSS, NSCDC, INEC, NUJ, CDD, PCRC, ECAPI and other stakeholders in the state.