Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of a truly democratic system. They are the surest means through which interested people vie for and attain leadership right from the grassroots to the national level. Those seeking elective positions must, therefore, brace themselves for the inevitable competition. However, many politicians will do anything in pursuit of their goal of winning elections to assume those coveted leadership positions.
Unfortunately, in the run-up to the August 9 general election, some politicians have heavily invested in the spreading of lies and distortions about their opponents. This is the season for propaganda to influence election outcomes. To some, social media platforms are a ready source of information that can be put to good use or manipulated for ulterior motives. While these platforms are useful in the provision of knowledge, social media are increasingly being deployed for the accomplishment of devious missions, such as disinformation.
The proliferation of social media platforms has spawned faceless ‘keyboard warriors’. This breed of characters mostly hide behind real bloggers, who are motivated by a genuine desire to disseminate information for public benefit. They, indeed, are mercenaries hired for hatchet jobs to spread false information—conveniently in this era of fake news, some of it so well-packaged that the consumers are easily fooled.
While mainstream media practitioners are regulated and governed largely by professional ethics, bloggers are mostly quacks. A Nation investigation has unearthed the pervasive use of propaganda, manipulation and disinformation in electoral contests. This has a bearing on the quality of our leaders.
Sadly, analysts say, disinformation thrives when the agencies supposed to give information to the public fail to do so. Yet a crackdown on fake news often raises concern about press freedom. A country with proven freedoms and guarantees would not wish to go that way. But where there is a criminal element, such as incitement or sedition, the law should take its course. Incitement, especially during elections, must never be condoned, hence the need to create awareness of this scourge.