Editorial:  We Must Prioritise Fact-Checking In Covering The 2024 Election

The 21st century has brought with it an era of sharing information with the click of a button. The new media, particularly social media, beyond its positive impact of expanding the frontiers of journalists to spread information, has also allowed everyone with access to the internet and social media to be a journalist, sharing information.

The media landscape, at the moment, is battling with misinformation, and so are innocent audiences. As information now spread at unprecedented speed with the aid of the internet and social media accounts, it means that misinformation can also proliferate.

Last week, the entire nation was awash with misinformation, following the announcement of a supposed new Guinness World Record that had been won by one Ebenezer Smith, also known as Chief Smith. He organised a press conference to announce that he was the latest record holder for the prestigious world title, having done the longest time for cooking.

According to pictures and videos from the said presser, a certificate supposed to be from the Guinness World Record was displayed and later shared on social media by individuals and reputable media houses.

Unfortunately, it turned out that his claims were nothing but a scam. In fact, the certificate turned out to be fake, after several queries on its authenticity to the awarding institution returned negative responses.

The development completely cast a slur on the image of the media, as practitioners failed to fact-check before running to town with the news. It is good to break the news, but it is worse to break it and return to apologise for misinforming the public.

The onus lies on us, the media, to cross-check, double-check and check again before reporting. This responsibility is very important during election periods, where the stakes are incredibly high. The ruling party is seeking to break the eight-year cycle and the main opposition also desires to return to power after eight years in opposition.

Misinformation and disinformation can, therefore, significantly impact public opinion and the democratic process. This is why fact-checking has become an essential tool in a journalist’s arsenal to safeguard the integrity of election coverage.

Beyond people making decisions based on falsehoods, misinformation and disinformation can also plunge the nation into chaos.

The Chronicle is, therefore, urging all journalists to continue playing the critical role of gatekeepers of information. This role involves not just reporting facts, but ensuring those facts are accurate.

Fact-checking requires time, resources and expertise. In this fast-paced world of news, the pressure to publish quickly can sometimes lead to shortcuts in the verification process, but we urge our colleagues to be accurate.

Additionally, the polarised political climate can make fact-checking contentious, with journalists facing backlash from those who feel their political beliefs are being targeted. Despite these challenges, the importance of reporting facts cannot be overstated.

We want to remind our colleagues, because we assume we all know that we need to always check the credibility of the sources of information.

Often times, media houses do not see the need to correct errors and apologise for misinforming the public.

The electoral atmosphere is heating up by the day and journalists have a duty to the public to provide accurate information.

Reporting facts during the elections and playing our gatekeeping role effectively as journalists is our contribution to ensuring peaceful elections and, in the long run, help to safeguard the current republic, which happens to be the longest ever.


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