Stakeholders in the Nigerian information space have urged media organisations to play crucial role in countering misinformation and hate speech by upholding ethical standards in their news reporting and analysis.
Delivering a keynote address at the public launch of the iVerify fact-checking platform on Wednesday in Abuja, the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, tasked media owners and publishers to tackle the menace of hate speech to sustain peace and unity in the country.
The INEC chairman, represented by the acting Director, Voter Education, Mrs. Mary Nkem said hate speech has the potential to deepen societal rifts and increase tensions within communities while inciting violence and discrimination against targeted groups.
“Hate speech poses significant dangers in the electoral process. When introduced into political discourse, hate speech has the potential to incite divisiveness, bigotry, and violence, and to erode the principles of democracy and equality,” he said.
Professor Yakubu noted that in combating hate speech, it is necessary to involve various stakeholders, including political leaders, civil society organizations, media outlets, and the general public.
In his welcome remark, the Executive Director of International Press Centre (IPC), Lanre Arogundade, stated that the iVerify project was launched by the IPC to strengthen the fight against the information disorder illustrated by rising disinformation, misinformation, mal-information and hate speech, especially in the electoral and democratic processes.
Arogundade highlighted that the major components of the iVerify project includes capacity building for journalists on fact-checking of electoral information and the democratic processes, promotion of media literacy and engagement in public enlightenment to combat information disorder, amongst others.
“The effort at curbing disinformation will not bring about the desired result if the concept of media literacy is not fully embraced as a way of educating journalists, other media professionals and the public, hence it is an important part of the iVerify project,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, INEC spokesperson, Rotimi Oyekanmi, noted that it is crucial for journalists to research extensively before writing their reports in order to not be an actor in information disorder as most individuals tend to read only the headlines and a few paragraphs before sharing it to their counterparts.
“You have this information; how do you determine whether it is true or not, that is where iVerify comes in. As journalists, we need to continue to read extensively, we need to research extensively and there are various source through which you can verify issues,” he said.
The event ended with a panel discussion on: Role of media and institutional stakeholders in enhancing information integrity moderated by the deputy director of CJID, Busola Ajibola with notable speakers selected from online and traditional media, including regulatory agencies such as the National Broadcasting Commission etc.