Too many players in information ecosystem spreading false information – Foundation

By Yussif Ibrahim

Kumasi, May 24, GNA – The democratisation of the agenda setting role of the media due to rising internet penetration and access to social media, is aiding the spread of false information, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has argued.

Mr Kwaku Asante Krobea, the Senior Programme Officer, MFWA, who made the assertion, said the influx of many players in the information ecosystem was a key driver of false information.

He was speaking during a two-day knowledge and skills-enhancing training on hate speech, political propaganda, mis and disinformation, extremist and other polarising narratives for selected journalists in Kumasi.

The training, organised by the MFWA sought to enhance the knowledge and skills of participants in conflict-sensitive reporting and programming, counter narratives of polarisation, counter mis and disinformation, and foster fact-based political discourse.

The goal was to reduce incidents of hate speech, and other polarising and extremist narratives that undermine social cohesion, as well as peace and stability ahead of the 2024 general elections.

It was also expected to increase fact-based public and media discourses that counter mis/disinformation and enhance a richer narrative landscape and community resilience, which encourage engagements across divergent groups.

Participants were taken through topics such as conflict and sensitive reporting, understanding conflict and violence, information disorder and how it manifested, peace journalism, among others.

Mr Krobea said the days when the agenda setting role was the preserve of experience editors in newsrooms were gone, with individuals taking over the information ecosystem and churning out false information without restrictions.

He said much as actors in the new media space had usurped the agenda setting role of the traditional media, stories from the mainstream media remained credible, and charged journalists to fact-check any information they put out to maintain their credibility.

They had a duty to stand out as professionals whose work could be referenced as the truth in an era where anyone could push a false narrative to achieve personal objectives.

“Our expectation is that from here participants will go back to the newsroom to influence their colleagues on the need to prioritise fact-checking as journalists,” Mr Krobea said.

He said a lot of practices had become traditional in the newsroom that were contributing to spreading false narratives thereby undermining the peace and stability of the country.

“We must not be the conveyor belt for spreading falsehood, but a platform that verifies and put out the truest form of information,” he stated.

Mrs Rosemont Ebi-Adwo Aryeetey, the Senior Programme Manager, Institutional Development, MFWA, who opened the workshop, expressed concern about Ghana’s decline on the Global Peace Index (GPI) rankings which saw the country falling from first position in West Africa in 2022 to fourth in 2023.

The country also moved from 40th position in the world to 51st within that same period.

Mrs Aryeetey said, this was worrying for us as a nation and blamed it on the incidences of intemperate language, political propaganda and hate speech which had engulfed the media space.

“It is clear that this peace that we so cherish is at risk if we continue on this tangent especially when we have elections just around the corner,” she cautioned.

She reminded the participants of the roles they could play to counter hate speech and polarising narratives to strengthen Ghana’s democracy and peace ahead of the elections and beyond.

Dr Kaderi Noagah Bukari, an Academic and Peace Building Expert, the University of Cape Coast, who engaged the participants on conflict reporting and peace journalism, said it was not the duty of journalists to mediate in conflict situation, but report accurately as a contribution to the process of resolving conflicts.

Conflicts are not entirely bad because it sometimes led to sustainable solutions to problems, but when it is not well handled, violence can set in, Dr. Bukari explained.

He counselled journalists to be circumspect in reporting on conflicts and sensitive issues, saying that any reckless commentary could spark violence between the feuding factions.