The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has advised media organisations not to allow their platforms be used to promote hate speech and fake news in the forthcoming Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections.
INEC National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye gave the advice in Lokoja at a workshop for journalists on Nov. 16 governorship election in Kogi.
The theme of the workshop organised by INEC was “2019 Kogi Governorship Election: Legal and Procedural Issues.”
Okoye said that INEC acknowledged the positive and critical role media played as partners in informing and enlightening the public on the democratic and electoral processes.
“We also recognize you as gatekeepers and agenda setters, hence our desire to partner and cooperate with you at all times.
“You hold a public trust and as such you have the duty to promote the common good.
Consequently, you must do all you can to promote peace and harmony in our community at all times.
“Conversely, you should not allow your platforms to be used to promote hate speech and fake news or exacerbate historic, cultural, religious, ethnic or other primordial fault lines.
“Mistrust, strife and conflict, which are some of the end or by products of these, run contrary to democratic ethos and tend to undermine the process,” Okoye said.
He said that the media was indispensable in the task of nation building and instituting a new democratic and electoral order in Nigeria.
He said that media practitioners must not and should not depend on rumours, innuendoes, gossip and fake news in reporting the electoral process.
Okoye urged the media to report accurately and knowledgeably, saying “we are not asking for special favour, but accurate reporting of issues in the electoral process.
“You must know that your stories and reports have national security implications as one false report, especially during elections can lead to breakdown of law and order.
“We will be on hand to explain and clarify grey issues and grey areas and I urge you to seize the opportunity of our presence to enrich your reportage.”
Okoye advised the participants of the workshop to avail themselves relevant electoral documents in the coverage of elections.
These according to him include Nigeria Constitution 1999(as amended), the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended), copies of the Regulations, Guidelines, Manuals, Gazettes and other electoral documents issued by the commission.
INEC Deputy Director, Publicity, Mr Aliyu Bello, said that the workshop was informed by the desire to sensitise media practitioners on processes and procedures for elections, particularly as it applies to Kogi.
Bello said it was also to create awareness on use of basic concepts and terminologies in the Electoral Process Bello.
“You will agree with me that, overtime the Commission keeps improving the Electoral Process to meet the aspirations of Nigerians.
“Arising from these improvements, a number of innovations have been made, thereby enriching, sometimes adding or changing the lexicography of electoral terminologies.”
Bello said that reporters covering electoral beats and other stakeholders were often exposed to use of certain terminologies, which were often technical.
He said the terminologies could be challenging for persons who have not familiarised themselves with them to adequately comprehend what the umpire was talking about when it used such terms.
“The situation becomes worse when applied incorrectly during coverage.’’