Need for timely information to reduce fake news during elections

Accra- Panelists at the West Africa Media Excellence Conference and Awards on Friday unanimously agreed that there is the need to provide timely information to reduce fake news during elections.

They said people, especially political party actors, made conjectures and spread false information when electoral bodies failed to update electorates on the process.

Mrs Jean Mensa, the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Ghana speaking on the topic, Managing Elections in Africa-How can Social Media Help or Hurt Elections Management, said social media was a two-edge sword.

At the EC, she explained that social media continued to serve as a channel of communication and had helped reach out to its constituents by the click of a button.

Currently, we are using social media as part of our communication tools to do voter education. We constantly interact with people and provide answers to questions related to electoral process.

Our communications department blend social media with the traditional media to spread News statements on critical decisions. It is cost effective because one needs not to spend much money on educational advertisements.

However, Mrs Mensa said social media equally spread fake news and that there were instances, where people spread fake news that sought to malign the integrity of the commissioners and undermined the work of the commission.

To counter fake news, the EC Chairperson said steps were taken by the Commission to strengthen its communication department to provide timely information to the public on the electoral process.

She urged the public not to trust pieces of information they received on social media, but to go a step further to check the authenticity of the information.

Asked about the rising cost of elections, Mrs Mensa noted that the EC would use modern technologies in other to reduce cost of organizing elections.

Mr Ahmed Newton Barry, the Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Burkina Faso, sharing his thoughts said it would be extremely difficult for any EC to stop the spread of fake news, but rather provide information.

He said there was the need to educate people that, any information concerning electoral processes would come from the EC, but not any other organization.

When it comes to the struggle of power, many people do not give a second thought, they do unimaginable things. All they want is power to be able to control resources and they will go at all length, he said.

Mr Barry said the media with the ‘first to break the news syndrome’ contributed to the spread of fake news and urged journalists to resist from such acts because as it had serious consequences.

Source: Ghana News Agency