Mr Albert Kan Dapaah, Minister of National Security, has described disinformation as Ghana’s major security challenge.
He said the spread of fake news on social media had become a major concern for the Ministry due to its potential of eroding the democratic gains made by the country and disrupting the current peace and security.
“From where I sit (as a National Security Minister), I can confidently say that disinformation is one of the major security challenges that I have to confront with on a daily basis,” the Minister said.
He was speaking at a seminar on “Impact of Disinformation on Electoral Integrity, Peace and Security in Africa”, in Accra.
The seminar, organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration in collaboration with the Ministry of Information and the Institute of Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), was to among other things, highlight the threat that disinformation posed to the peace and stability of the country.
It was to also proffer solutions that would culminate in the development of a framework to help fight the phenomenon.
The seminar was attended by members from key public and private institutions, including the judiciary, political parties, civil society organisations, as well as security and political analysts.
Mr Dapaah noted that, misinformation and disinformation, had become potent tools that were utilised for influence operations and malicious campaigns that undermined electoral integrity, peace and also security.
Those campaigns, Mr Dapaah said, were orchestrated by a spectrum of actors, including both state and non-state entities, local and foreign actors, as well as political and non-political players.
In West Africa, for instance, the Security Minister indicated that, the overthrow of democratically elected governments and the emergence of military rule, was largely fueled by mis/disinformation.
“Even the most mature democracies are not immune, as witnessed in the unsettling events of January 6, 2021, when supporters of former President Trump stormed the capitol hill in the United States. That incident continues to underscore the alarming impact that disinformation can have on electoral processes and a nation’s stability,” he said.
Democracy in West Africa, Mr Dapaah said, was under siege, stressing that “disinformation, we believe is the most potent weapon being employed by foreign and local actors to destabilise our nations”.
“Look at the recent space of coup in Burkina Faso, in Mali and Niger, and they provide a better contest for analysing the role of disinformation and misinformation in undermining democracy, peace and stability in West Africa,” the National Security Minister added.
He, therefore, stressed the need for collaboration among all stakeholders, including civil society organisations and the media in the fight against the phenomenon.
Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, Minister of Communications and Digitalisation, said disinformation was a threat to the country’s democratic foundation, sowing doubts, amplifying divisions and eroding trust in the electoral systems.
“It can undermine not only the integrity of our elections, but damage our peace and security, polarise our societies, pitch one group against the other, knock our heads against each other and shred the very nature and foundation of our societies,” she emphasised.
Therefore, she said, it was important to recognise that malicious actors, individuals and nations explored the speed and reach of tools to disseminate false information, manipulate public opinions and influence public outcomes through social media manipulation.
The Communications Minister stressed the need for increased investment in public education and awareness creation campaigns that promoted media literacy and critical thinking.
“We need to be able to empower our citizens to be able to discern fact from fiction so, that we can mitigate the impact of disinformation,” she added.
She also urged media practitioners to carry out their work diligently, being mindful of the impact of their words on society.
Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Minister of Foreign Affairs, although recognised the challenge posed by a liberal social media space, cautioned against strict control of the space by the State.
“We must recognise that heavy-handed responses such as internet shutdowns or network throttling of social media represent a grave infringement on fundamental human rights,” she noted.