2023: Panelists Discuss Mitigating Flashpoints of Electoral Misinformation and Disinformation

2023: Panelists Discuss Mitigating Flashpoints of Electoral Misinformation and Disinformation

…As INEC Debunks Certain Misinformation About 2023 Elections For the love of the country and the commitment to the success of the 2023 general elections, a panel comprising media experts, University dons, Civil Society Organisations and the information managers of the nation’s electoral commission converged in Abuja at the weekend to brainstorm on identifying and

…As INEC Debunks Certain Misinformation About 2023 Elections

For the love of the country and the commitment to the success of the 2023 general elections, a panel comprising media experts, University dons, Civil Society Organisations and the information managers of the nation’s electoral commission converged in Abuja at the weekend to brainstorm on identifying and mitigating flashpoints of electoral misinformation and disinformation in Nigeria.

Gathered at a one-day workshop organised by the International Press Centre, the event was an opportunity for the Electoral Umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to espouse its stand on on some raging issues pertaining to the conduct of the 2023 elections and some flash points of electoral misinformation and disinformation. The workshop was tagged INEC interface with Media/CSOs on identifying and mitigating flashpoints of electoral misinformation and disinformation.

Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim, Chairman, Editorial Board of Premium Times and Senior Fellow of Center for Democracy and Development (CDD) presided over the workshop where Mr. Festus Okoye INEC’s National Commissioner for Information and Voter Education, Mr Austin Aigbe, Senior Programmes Manager, CDD and Mr. Kemi Busari, Editor ,Dubawa presented papers.

Executive Director of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade set the ball rolling emphasizing that the interface was holding within the context of the need to make appropriate strategic response to the twin-menace of misinformation and disinformation so that the worst of information disorder do not envelope the electoral landscape. He said electoral disinformation and misinformation if unchecked could lead to lack of trust in the electoral process and create unwelcome disruptions.

“For us in the media, it is also a straight forward case that we cannot effectively perform the function of providing citizens with the information they need to make informed choices at elections, if the same citizens are confused about what to believe and what not to believe.The media task in the above regard, is further complicated by the penchant of the politicians to tell blatant lies to score cheap political points.

“Against the above background, the Expected Result 5 of Component 4: Support to Media of the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGNII) is that of ‘Media professional capacity to deal with electoral misinformation and disinformation is strengthened’. The specific objective of the component is to ensure that, “the Media, including New and Social Media, provides fair, accurate, ethical and inclusive coverage of the Electoral Process”, he stressed.

He said matters arising from this interface will also contribute to the design of appropriate fact-checking tools and messages through short videos, hackathons and other ICE materials on combatting fake news in the electoral process.

His word;” the fact-checking of claims by politicians under the on-going monitoring of media coverage of 2023 elections informed the establishment of a fact-checking unit in IPC’s news portal and media resource – the Nigeria Democratic Report – (www.ndr.org.ng), the empowerment of citizens with the knowledge to detect fake news, etc, are the other activities by the IPC geared towards sanitising the electoral information space”, he said.

Mr. Festus Okoye, Esq., In his keynote address entitled: “Issues, perspectives and flash points of electoral misinformation and disinformation lamented that as the Commission prepares for the 2023 general election, there are issues, processes and procedures of the Commission that have been cast in a way aimed at confusing the Nigerian people or delegitimizing the Commission and the electoral process.

“Some of the issues and challenges have been adequately explained by the Commission and some of them are emerging. It is important to understand some of these issues as a few of them have been subject of misinformation and disinformation” lamenting that some of the critical stakeholders in the electoral process have not made the transition from the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) to the Electoral Act, 2022.

“Some of them are still quoting sections of the law that have either been repealed or amended. Furthermore, some of the stakeholders are not comfortable with some of the provisions aimed at strengthening the electoral regime and will prefer a return to the old act.

“The reality is that the Commission must conduct the 2023 general election based on the Electoral Act, 2022. Attacking the Commission based on its resolve to conduct a law-based election will not change its resolve to organise, undertake and supervise elections in Nigeria, he warned.

Mr. Okoye who noted that both the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 as amended and the Electoral Act 2022 empowered the commission to make Regulations and Guidelines said the application and implementation of the Regulations and Guidelines by officers of the Commission has been a source of misinformation and disinformation. “Sometimes, there is deliberate injection of confusion in our processes when some persons started circulating information that registered voters do not need their PVCs to vote in any election”, he noted.

Another issue of concern is the deployment of the Bimodal Voter Identification System (BVAS). According to him, a regime of misinformation and disinformation has been afoot in relation to the deployment of technology in the electoral process especially the introduction of the BVAS for voter accreditation and authentication.

“Issues have been raised and is still being raised on its functionality, efficacy of its use and the capacity of the Commission to deploy the technology. Those with double and multiple Permanent Voters Cards are now unable to use them. Those that are masters in the use of Incident Forms have been taken out of business and they want a return to the old ways of conducting elections. Some of them are claiming that the BVAS uses network and there is no network in their localities. The reality is that BVAS works offline and does not require network for voter verification and authentication. The BVAS has come to stay and shall be used and deployed for the conduct of the 2023 general election. Section 47(2) of the Electoral Act makes the use of the BVAS for voter authentication and verification mandatory and the Commission is not vested with the discretionary authority to use or not to use the device”, he said.

Mr. Okoye said the capacity of the Commission to electronically transmit polling unit level result in real time has been met with stiff resistance in some quarters. According to him, the management of result collation has been a source of concern and consternation to the Commission.” The electronic transmission and transfer of results has been a game changer in the electoral process. This has reduced incidents of hijack and hacking of results on their way to the collation centre. Sections 50 and 64 of the Electoral Act make the electronic transmission of polling unit level results mandatory. The Commission will continue to improve on its processes but will not be drawn into a debate on settled issues”.

Speaking on the Threshold for Declaration and Return, Mr Okoye said Section 134 of the Constitution enjoins the Commission to prepare for every possible scenario and eventuality relating to the outcome of Presidential and Governorship elections. “Candidates for Presidential and Governorship elections must meet the numerical and geographical threshold in section 134(2) and 178(2) of the Constitution to be declared the winners of the election. In default, the Constitution prescribes a second election within a period of 21 days between two candidates.

“The candidate who scored the highest number of votes and one among the remaining candidates who has a majority of votes in the highest number of states. We must resist the danger and temptation of rigid expectations aimed at preventing the Commission from preparing for every possible scenario in accordance with constitutional dictates,” he said.

On vote buying in the electoral process, Mr. Okoye said INEC is worried that politicians, now realising that every vote counts, go to the polling units with bags of money to induce voters. “Some of them buy the votes before the commencement of elections. Some of them employ a variety of tactics that are both manual and digital in vote buying. This is a sad development which portrays our country in very bad light. The Commission has made it clear that open votes buying will not be tolerated on Election Day.

“Our democracy should not be for sale in the open market and votes are not commodities to be bargained, bought, and sold. It is the fundamental right of every voter to vote in secret for the candidate of his or her choice without let or hindrance.

“As we approach the 2023 general election, INEC will continue to implement policies and collaborate with the law enforcement and financial regulatory agencies to check vote buying. However, the Commission is not vested with the power to go from house to house in search of vote buyers and sellers”.

On the proclivity for hate speech and fake news by the political elites and political parties, Mr. Okoye said this constitutes a direct threat to the conduct of peaceful elections in Nigeria. “Evidence points to the fact that post-election violence is often triggered through hate speeches and spreading of fake news during political campaigns and through social media platforms by opposing candidates and political parties.

“In the run-up to the 2023 general election, inciting the population through hate speech and purveyance must be condemned by all and sundry. The political elite must be made to play the game according to the rules and avoid intemperate speeches and statements that are capable of inciting violence. Spreading fake and false information against thew Commission aimed at delegitimizing it and the electoral process will harm our democracy and the trust and confidence on the people in the system”, he warned.

He said resort to misinformation and disinformation will not help in the growth and sustenance of the electoral and democratic process. “All the critical stakeholders must rise and fight the spectre of misinformation and disinformation. It is important to verify information before sharing. The Commission believes that the antidote to fake news is greater openness and transparency. While the Commission remain true to its commitment to openness and transparency, the media and all the critical stakeholders must resist deliberate falsehood aimed at delegitimizing the Commission and the electoral process, he stressed .

In his paper, Mr Austin Aigbe of CDD noted that fake news is not new in the country but it is now gaining attention because of the dynamics. According to him, purveyors of fake news does that intentionally and most times for financial gain.

Mr. Kemi Busari, Editor, Dubawa in his presentation regretted that fake news has eaten deep into the society. He said some people deliberately open parody accounts of people and institutions where falsehood are published such as non verified press releases, false statistics of candidates, opinion disguised as facts and increase in bot activities on social media.

He said there are conscious pre-emptive moves by fact- checkers in the country. These activities include fact checking, collaboration, partnership, analysis, explainers and media and information literary articles

Posts Carousel

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Latest Posts

Top Authors

Most Commented

Featured Videos