Fact Check, FOI Act: Veritable Tools For Accountability, Transparency In Democratic Governance

By Celestine Okeh, Abakaliki

Fact Checking  and Freedom of Information (FOI) Act has been  revealed to be powerful tools in combating information disorder and egendering accountability, transparency in democratic governance. 
This was brought to fore during a
two -day Capacity Building Workshop on combatting information disorder in democratic governance reporting using fact-checking and FOI tools, organized by the International Press Center (IPC), in partnership with European Union (EU)-Support / Funding to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGIN), held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, South-South Nigeria.

The Executive Director, International Press Center (IPC) Mr. Lanre Arogundade hinted that the  training is part of IPC's commitment to nurturing a community of skilled and ethically grounded journalists to serve as a beacon of hope in combating the widespread dissemination of misinformation. and fostering a culture of critical thinking, fact-checkiing, media literacy and empower journalists to serve as guardians of truth, champions of integrity, and defenders of democracy. 

The two day capacity building training which host 40 journalists drawn from media houses across the states in South East and South -South geopolitical zone of the country has the theme; “Post Election Reporting: Using FOI Act & other Investigative Methodologies to report Democratic Governance & Electoral Accountability Issues”. 

Arogundade explained further that what informed his decision to hold the Event was that Journalists and the Media can hold the Government accountable to the people and do better to report in the Public interest. 

“Ultimately it’s about the people. So, we are looking at Democratic Governance and Post Elections, particularly when it comes to promises made by elected Politicians, we believe that we need to use relevant Tools to follow up on those Policies and the Claims they are also making about what has been done or what has not been done. 

“That’s why we talked about Freedom of Information Act and Fact - Checking.”
He explained, adding that IPC believes that Gender Issue is still very important and it is their obligation to advance the course of Women. 

According to him, in Societies, including Nigeria, through consistent reporting and follow – up, Journalists have been able to make a difference in the lives of people, getting Government to do what  they are supposed to do; build Roads and Health Centers in Communities, and expressed confidence that it is quite possible now, despite the challenges faced in the Profession. 

He charged Participants on the Workshop on value of fact- checking their reports in order to dispel suspicions and lower the spread of false information in the society.

On his part, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, the Executive Director, Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Lagos, who did Justice to the theme of the Event, “Post- Election Reporting: Using FOI Act & other Investigative Methodologies to report Democratic Governance and Electoral Accountability Issues”, charged Journalists to conduct investigative reporting more often, and to hold the Government and Government Officials, as well as Institutions, accountable.

Edetaen Ojo, a seasoned journalist explained that Media Professionals are in the Information Business, and the whole point of Freedom of Information Act is to enable Citizens, including, Journalists to get Information that is reliable from Public Institutions and Officials because in the Digital age, there’s so much inaccurate Information floating around. 

“So, it’s particularly important that we have an instrument that enables us to ask and get information and have the assurance that the information we are getting is accurate and reliable, then we should utilize that instrument. 

“But unfortunately, our experience has been that over the last 12 years or so, the law has been in existence, Journalists have not made significant use of it, so, part of the objective here is to create greater awareness and sensitize Journalists about the existence of the Law and its value to them and also build capacity on how to use the law effectively.

“Over the decade, our Government operated largely in secrecy and that culture of secrecy is inbuilt in Governance, so it will take time to break that culture. 

“I believe that through persistent and consistent use of the law we would gradually begin to see a new reality where Government Officials understand that they are under legal obligation to provide Citizens with information, and when Journalists along with other Citizens are using the law to ask them for information, they need to provide the information, failing, attracts consequences”. 

He stated, pointing out that the Freedom of Information Act is a tool that can enable regular access to Information and Data, which in turn, can assist a Journalist in becoming a prolific reporter.

He explained that the FOI Act is also an extremely valuable tool for Journalists who want to fact-check Information.

The two day capacity building training featured series of Group Works on centering on fact Checking and rafting of freedom of information Act letters seeking Information.

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