Lagos, Nigeria- 03 May, 2019
Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation
The Institute for Media and Society, IMS, joins the rest of the world to celebrate the World Press Freedom Day.
It is a day which provides an opportunity to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the performance of professional responsibilities.
The theme of this year’s celebration, Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation, is very timely, considering the fact that Nigeria recently went through a season of political campaign, leading to the general elections. The mass media, including social media, were extensively used by political parties, candidates and other participants, to reach the voting population.
Observation of behaviour in the recent elections showed that false information has its key sources in political actors, especially politicians and their proxies whose goal is to mislead the public and gain advantage in the electoral process.
False information (with such appellations as misinformation, disinformation and fake news) penetrates the public domain due mainly to gaps in public trust for office holders and institutions, within the context that transparency and accountability have not seriously taken a front seat in our national life. It poses a threat to professionally gathered and processed news, constitutes danger to freedom of expression and to democracy.
The response becomes the responsibility of various institutions in the society.

We call on training institutions and media managers to provide capacity-building to journalists to understand and deal with the threat of false information.
We urge government agencies to improve the environment for the practice of journalism by addressing such issues as editorial freedom, particularly in state-owned media, and safety of journalists, across the country.
We implore regulatory agencies, particularly in the broadcasting sector, to further strengthen pluralism by licensing more community stations and ensuring that broadcasters across all sub-sectors provide access to the diversity of genuine voices in electoral and broader political processes.
We enjoin academic institutions to prioritise research on the subject and provide fresh perspectives to addressing it in our society.
We urge media owners in the state and private sectors to improve the welfare of journalists and provide up-to-date working tools.

Dr Akin Akingbulu
Executive Director
Institute for Media and Society.