Why Journalists Should Engage The FOI Act – Ojo

Rita Enemuru, Reporting

The Executive Director of the Media Rights Agenda, Mr Edetaen Ojo, has given reasons journalists should engage the Freedom Of Information (FOI) Act in reporting credible stories.

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He gave the reasons on Wednesday while speaking on the topic ‘Using the FOI Act and other Methodologies To Report Democratic Governance and Electoral Accountability Issues’ on the first day of the two-day capacity workshop organised for journalists.

The workshop organised by the International Press Centre and funded by the European Union is held at the Golden Tulip Hotel, Port Harcourt, Rivers State with about 40 journalists drafted from the South South and South East of Nigeria in attendance.

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According to him, the FOI tools will assist media practitioners in verifying sources of income and expenditure of political parties during and after elections in order to ensure transparency and accuracy in information dissemination.

“Information obtained through FOI requests made under the FOI Act can be used to hold government officials and institutions accountable and such requests can be used to scrutinize the statements and actions of government officials and Institutions,” he added.

He also mentioned that claims of subsidy removal by government bodies and officials can be verified by requesting documents from appropriate sources to make sure that these claims are true.

Furthermore, he said that by acquiring budget documents by using FOI tools, journalists can be prolific in churning out powerful and credible breaking news stories.

Hear him: “Information obtained through FOI requests made under the FOI Act can be used to hold government officials & institutions accountable and you can use such requests to scrutinize the statements & actions of government officials & Institutions.

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“The FOI Act enables individuals, including journalists, to request access to a wide range of government documents, records & information.

“You can therefore use the Act to make requests for official documents, records, reports & other materials that may contain information that is relevant to the claims or statements that you want to fact-check.

“You can also use FOI requests made under the FOI Act to verify statements or claims made by government officials or officials of other organizations.

“By obtaining official documents in this manner, you can cross-reference the information & confirm or refute the accuracy of the statements.

“You can use the information obtained through FOI requests to reveal inconsistencies in public statements or reports issued by government officials or institutions.

“You can compare the information obtained through FOI requests with publicly available data to identify any discrepancies & bring such misrepresentation to light; Information obtained through FOI requests can also be used to confirm the sources of data cited in public statements or reports.

“You can make FOI requests to get the original data sets or reports being referenced or cited to ensure that the information has been accurately presented as information obtained through FOI requests can provide additional context to information that you are trying to verify or fact-check.

“By obtaining related documents, you can understand the background & circumstances in which a particular claim contained in a public statement was made; in this way, you can see when things are quoted out of context.

“The FOI Act can be a powerful tool for countering misinformation by presenting evidence obtained from official sources.

“Journalists can use such information to educate the public & correct false or misleading claims as FOI requests can be used to track changes in government policies, statistics, or decisions over time and also, historical records can be obtained through FOI requests and analyzed to assess the accuracy of current claims & statements.”

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