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Disinformation is a threat to democratic systems everywhere – Expert

Ms. Sarah J. Wachter, United States Speaker on Election Misinformation, says disinformation is one of the greatest threats to democratic systems everywhere. She said over four billion people would vote in elections globally this year, and there was already a worrying trend of disinformation in some of the largest democracies.

Ms. Watcher was speaking at a training on election misinformation for Ghanaian traditional and digital journalists in Kumasi, ahead of the 2024 general elections.

The week-long programme, which would also be extended to student journalists in Accra, was put together by the U. S. Embassy in Ghana, in collaboration with Dubawa, a fact-checking organisation.

It forms part of the Embassy’s continued support for the training of journalists in Ghana and to promote professionalism ahead of election 2024.

Participants were exposed to tools and resources required to combat misinformation, disinformation, malinformation, as well as fact-checking as the election approached.

Officials from the
Information Services Department and the National Commission for Civic Education were also on hand to share their perspectives on the topics.

Ms. Wachter said journalists had a crucial role to play in calling out and debunking disinformation, stressing on the need to do it in real time to curb their potential damage in the public space.

Disinformation, she noted, knew no borders, and could emerge from anywhere in the world with devastating consequences on millions of people globally. She encouraged journalists to take advantage of various tools and resources available on the internet free of charge to verify the authenticity of videos and photos posted online to protect their credibility when using them.

They must also go the extra mile to fact check claims by politicians, especially in the election year to weed out persons whose stock in trade were to make a living out of misinforming the public. Mr. Kevin Brosnahan, Press Attaché at the U.S. Embassy Ghana, said America was committed to protecting democrac
y and that included supporting Ghana to have free and fair election.

‘And that is not just to say that we need to avoid misinformation and disinformation, it is also about training journalists on how to report on elections,’ he told the media on the sidelines of the training. He said America suffered disinformation and misinformation during its 2016 elections, which investigations later proved that a lot of them came from a foreign country.

‘So, it is of concern for us, and we don’t want to see it happen elsewhere. We have learnt a lot, and we want to share what we have learnt and that is why we have brought our expert to come and talk to journalists about how to avoid this,’ he stated.

Source: Ghana News Agency