By Omar Bah
Former minister of information, Demba Jawo, has urged Gambian journalists to avoid being used as agents of fake news and disinformation.
Addressing a forum on how to counter fake news and disinformation organised by the Centre for Research & Policy Development in collaboration with Fact Check – Gambia, Mr Jawo, himself a former journalist, said Gambian journalists should work diligently to ensure they write and broadcast “factually”.
The daylong dialogue held at Kairaba Conference Centre was funded by the International Republican Institute (IRI).
“Fact checking is extremely important because the spread of fake news and disinformation can cause problems for our society because people who spread disinformation have ulterior motives which could sometimes endanger the society,” Mr Jawo said.
He said fake news and disinformation can cause ethnic problems and journalist should be agents of reliable information.
“We need to be extremely careful especially when we pick things on social media,” he added.
The president of the Gambia Press Union, Muhammed Bah, said: “The media should be in the forefront of combatting hate speech, disinformation and misinformation. We should not allow ourselves to be used as agents of hate speech and false news. Our role is to ensure that undiluted facts are presented to the public, to help them make informed choices.
“The media has more work together ahead of the upcoming parliamentary election. We should ensure we develop the culture of fact-checking and constantly debunk fake news and hate speech so as to help consolidate our democracy.”
Country representative for Westminster Foundation for Democracy, Madi Jobarteh, said the media and fact-checkers have done “a tremendous job” during the last presidential election to counter fake news and disinformation.
He said although business owners “pread fake news against their competitors, the politicians are more notorious for spreading fake news and disinformation”.
“The impact of fake news on society is huge and it can damage peace, stability, make people lose confidence in the government and protect corrupt officials or institutions failing their responsibility,” Jobarteh said.