2023 Elections: SLAJ gears up to tackle disinformation 

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Media stakeholders at the launch

By Alhaji Haruna Sani

While making his statement during the official launch of the ‘Combating Disinformation in Sierra Leone’s 2023 Electoral Cycle’ project, Dr. Francis Sowa, National Coordinator of the Media Reform Coordination Group (MRCG),said  spreading disinformation is deliberate and intentional and that  campaign against it must be deliberate and intentional.

The event was organized and held on March 24 at the Electoral Commission Sierra Leone (ECSL) Conference Hall, Tower Hill in Freetown.

Dr. Sowa expressed his delight seeing that one of the leading members within the MRCG, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), was engaged in the project which is the component of the work of SLAJ within the electoral cycle across the board.

“There is intent in every disinformation campaign. In elections, political parties as well as individuals decide to engage in disinformation campaign therefore, we are happy that SLAJ has particularly decided to label this campaign as combating disinformation because the spread of disinformation is deliberate and intentional so the campaign to respond to it must also be deliberate and intentional,” he said.

He went on to state that those who put such information know what they want to achieve and therefore the campaign must also have a goal to achieve and that goal among other thing, should ne pre-bunking and debunking  campaign that will deal with such information.

He noted that there were already signs of disinformation including against the ECSL and other Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs),adding that the information eco-system is about the provision of content and that once there is vacuum somebody somewhere will fill that space with all kinds of lies and falsehood.

“With this campaign, I believe activities and programs in it will fill that vacuum and there will be no room for detractors. On that note, we wish SLAJ a successful launch, execution and implementation of the campaign,” he concluded.

Chairman of the Independent Media Commission (IMC), Dr. Victor Massaquoi referred to disinformation, misinformation and mal-information as unholy trinity which should be fought against.

He went on to distinguish between and among the three “unholy trinity”.

For mal-information, he said the content is true but the intent is bad, while for misinformation is a spread of false information.

He said the IMC is doing the best within it powers to combat the scourge of fake news.

In his statement, President of SLAJ, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, said  the Combating Disinformation is a National Democratic Institute funded project and that the project will basically target the layers of misinformation which could undermine the democratic process and the credibility in the EBMs.

He highlighted the objectives of the project which he said include having the right information by citizens, promoting women chances in elections.

He added that one of the activities of the project is to establish ‘super news rooms’ in regional headquarter towns in the country with the main room in Freetown.

In his address, the Chief Electoral Commissioner, Mohamed K. Konneh highlighted some of the ills of false information, misinformation, disinformation and mal-information.

He said such information is not only spread through social media but also through mainstream media and through person to person.

He concluded by assuring to conducting a free, fair and credible elections.

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