Story By: Ruben Kwabla Amenyedor & Emmanuel Mylo Dadzie

Dissemination of fake news during campaign and election seasons has become rampant in recent times. It is for this reason a seminar was held today at the World Press Freedom Day themed ‘Covering Elections and Electoral Campaigns: Old and New challenges in times of Media Disinformation.

Speakers at this session were Chatherine Gicheru, an investigative journalist, Sulemana Braimah, Executive Director, Media Foundation for West Africa, Grant Masterson, Senior Programme manager at EISA, Nezer Patria, Vice Editor-in-Chief, CNN Indonesia. Joyce Barnathan, the president of the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) was the moderator. They all agree that the spread of fake news by journalists in recent times is unprofessional.

Causes of fake news

The seminar which was held at Aldo Ballroom 1, with a capacity of 150 participants, was aimed at revealing the causes of media disinformation during electoral seasons. The various speakers highlighted on the major causes of such act by the media. Some were of the view that some media houses are owned by politicians and therefore will always want to send information in favor of their managers.

Others think the cause of this heart aching problem is due to cheating during elections. “Our systems of transmitting electoral results in Africa are not genuine, this leads to cheating during the counting of electoral results, hence journalists misinforming the public.” Catherine Gicheru asserted.

How to deal with fake news

Mr. Sulemana Braimah the Executive Director of Media Foundation for West Africa spoke on how to monitor campaign messages in the media. He said institutions must make themselves available to monitor messages that our radio and television stations send out to the public during the era of elections. This, he said will put the media houses on their toes whiles transmitting these messages. He added that, his institution, Media Foundation for West Africa, monitored seventy radio stations during Ghana’s electoral season in 2016.

He further made assertions on how journalists send wrong information to the public, using a recent misinformation about the Right to Information Bill which is yet to be passed into law in Ghana. Some weeks ago a journalist in Ghana published that the Right to Information Bill which has been brought before the parliament of Ghana to be passed into law has been withdrawn. Earlier this morning at the opening ceremony of the World Press Freedom Day celebration, the Minister of Information, Hon. Mustapha Abdul-Hamid said, the Right to Information Bill is still before parliament and will soon be passed into law. Using this recent happening, Mr. Sulemana said this is how some journalists misinformed the public even during electoral seasons.

Focusing on the elections in Kenya, Miss Catherine Gicheru an Investigative Journalist and an ICFJ Knight Fellow, said, in order to harness political messages in Kenya, the ICFJ Knight Fellow put in a control measure on political messages. Messages sent out by media houses are collected by this institution and cross check them for facts and validity. If found out that, the messages out, after thorough investigations are of no facts, the media house will be ask to withdraw such messages.

Speaking with Mr. Sulemana Braimah after the program, he said the only way to harness the spread of misinformation to the public by the media, is, all media houses should adopt a program to track down and discuss all fake news and educate the public on media literacy and how identify fake news.

A bright future

The moderator of the discussion, Joyce Barnathan in an interview with the Talking Drum expressed her excitement for the major efforts most Civil Society Organizations across the globe are putting up to deal with the issue. She also called for all the relevant stakeholders to come together to address the complexity of the issue of fake news. She also called for multinational dialogue on the issue of fake news since there existed common trends in the various countries.