Preparatory to the 2019 general elections, some prominent Nigerian media organisations, including The Guardian, have made a commitment to tackle misinformation under a new project tagged "CrossCheckNigeria".
The project is being facilitated by the First Draft, a United Kingdom (UK)-based organisation fighting misinformation globally, in collaboration with the International Institute for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).
With the unveiling of the platform in Lagos yesterday, the project, which will be coordinated by the ICIR, an independent and non-profit news platform in Nigeria, is expected to begin to improve the quality of information shared with the public as well as hold public officers accountable.
Already, about 46 journalists from the 15 selected media organisations, including traditional and new media have been gathered for a two-day boot camp training programme to improve their capacity on the project.
The Managing Director of First Draft, Jenni Sargent, while addressing participants said CrossCheck Nigeria would also help to debunk misinformation and fake news and sanitise the media space in the run-up to the general elections. He told the participants that the technology for the project was already in use in France and Brazil.
Sargent said, the boot camp was designed to teach the participants about the new verification technology to be deployed for the project, and how to work in the media coalition. According to him, the project will help the public to understand not only what to trust, but why to trust particular information.
The Executive Director of ICIR, Dayo Aiyetan, who expressed concern about the "weaponisation of information" by political actors, challenged the media on the responsibility of verifying information being churned out on social media and other platforms.
"Journalists need to learn the skills to verify and fact-check such misinformation and debunk them before they mislead people or cause harm," Aiyetan said.
The ICIR boss explained that under the project, the participating organisations would work together in disproving fake news or misinformation by going beyond the traditional practice of fact-checking to deploying technology to check authenticity of claims.
A member of The Guardian editorial board, Martins Oloja, described the collaboration as timely. He said the project would help the country address the challenges in the industry, especially at a time when trust in the media is waning and operators are losing business.
Oloja, who noted that the media business is customer-centric, said the operators could afford to lose credibility and business at a time operational challenges are taking their toll on the business.
Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Kehinde Bamigbetan, charged journalists to always be responsible for spreading facts irrespective of the contexts of the report.
The Publisher of Niche Newspaper, Ikechukwu Amaechi, stressed the need for value to be added to contents as well as promotion of investigative journalism practice.