The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has commenced a two-day workshop for its Public Affairs officers (POAs) on how to detect and counter fake news on election related matters.

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The training with the theme “Fake news, disinformation and Media Monitoring ‘’ was held in collaboration with the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES) on Friday in Abuja.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), INEC-FCT, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, said that the training would equip the officers on new strategies on how to handle fake news, which was a concern to the commission.

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Bello said that the training would no doubt equip the officers to discharge their duties effectively as the commission prepares for the conduct of free, fair and credible elections.

“As you already know, the dissemination of fake news has very negative effects not just on elections but other areas of life and must therefore be identified and discountenanced.

“In particular, INEC is concerned with a situation where mischievous individuals post unofficial election results on the internet. This has the tendency of fomenting violence and mayhem resulting in the loss of precious lives and property.

“It is on record that fake news gave birth to break up of diplomatic relations of countries, while in other cases resulted into wars or unjustified invasions only to come to terms with the true situation much later and leave the rest to history.’’

Bello said that in the recent times, INEC severally had its share of fake news, especially after the temporary suspension of the Continuous Voter Registration.

The Executive Director, ECES, Mr Fabio Bargiachi, disclosed that ECES had delivered hard and software that would be installed in the coming days establishing National Media Centre for INEC.

Bargiachi, represented by Dominique Weerts, ECES Senior Capacity Development Expert, said that the centre was established on the request of INEC and in line with recommendations of EU Observation Mission in Nigeria in 2015.

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“The skills and expertise you will acquire from this workshop will be directly relevant to the functioning of this centre. Further support will be considered in due course to expand, strengthen and widen the scope of the media monitoring unit.’’

Bargiachi said that ECES was committed to contribute to deepening the democracy, saying “that is why I believe INEC places great store on capacity building so as to cement the gains of previous elections.’’

He added that the aim of the training was to enhance the officers’ understanding on fake new, by looking at the existing regulatory frameworks governing the media, explore cases of fake news and elections in other parts of the world.

Bargiachi said that was to critically, sharpen the tools at the officers’ disposal to spot and mitigate increasing scourge of fake news and disinformation.

“Building on that, the workshop also aims to equip you with basic skills and techniques in monitoring a variety of media source.

“This is expected to contribute to improving the commission’s internal and external interactions with stakeholders, as well as providing accurate information for timely response,’’ Bargiachi said.

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The INEC Director of Media and Publicity, Mr Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, said that fake news and disinformation were threat to democracy.

Osaze-Uzzi said that anything that tends to subvert the will of the people, undermine the sovereignty of the will of the people or promote violence was a threat to democracy.

“Democracy is about choices and choices are made based on information received or at your disposal. If the information you believe was correct turned out to be fake, then you decision or judgement is faulty.’’

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