Africa Check, US train Journalists on Fact-checking methods

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Luqmon Balogun, Lagos
A workshop on basic and advanced fact-checking methodologies and tools have been organised for journalists in Lagos.
This was to promote government accountability and evidence-based public discourse after the general elections.
The Public Affairs Officer US Consulate-General, Lagos, Mr. Russell Brooks said the United State of America was interested in supporting media capacity throughout the country, and had engaged the group Africa Check to offer media training to journalists.
Mr Brooks who appreciated the role of the media in nation building said the program would be replicated in a variety of locations in Nigeria so that more journalists could enjoy the opportunity to enhance their professional skills and knowledge to get the right information to the public. 

Speaking on the  essence of the fact checking training, Brooks said: “Fact-checking is needed throughout the world. Journalist are also the victim of Disinformation and Misinformation and the technology to spread bad information is very sophisticated and in order for journalists to do thieir job properly by providing accurate information, it is very important for them to be trained.”

Evidence-based reporting

Nigeria Editor, Africa check, Mr David Ajikobi said the workshop was in partnership with American Embassy, US Consulate and International Press Center, emphasising the need for evidence-based reporting and the need for Journalists to follow up on the politician’s promises made during the electioneering campaign and make them accountable for it.

According to him “Elections have come and gone and election are just an event in the democratic process and I think is time for the journalists now to hold government more accountable by probing most of their campaign promises and how they can be fulfilled.”

Ajikobi said the workshop was designed to give journalists the right skills to fact-check and verify misinformation, and replace false news that permeated the social media, especially during the last election with fact.

Democratic Accountability

Director of International Press Centre IPC, Mr Lanre Arogundade explained that training journalists on democratic accountability would assist them to hold political class accountable for their actions, because if they are not accountable, it would reduce the confidence public has in the electoral process.

Arogundade mentioned that Fact-checking is a tool for ensuring credibility of the conventional media, away from the information on social media.

“We need to follow the promises made by the politicians, if there are just one or two promises, we need to follow them up, we need to ask questions on how the promises would be fulfilled, how your budget accommodate some of your promises and the expectations of the people, what should be the expectations of the people in terms of timeline and where there are challenges in the cause of implementation, they should make the public to know, they should not keep public in the dark.” he said

He stressed that after elections, journalist now have herculean task to verify news information despite the crowded social media, the conventional media must retain its professionalism.

 According to him, “We must ensure that information that go into the public are not rumors or misinformation that can cause disorderliness or cause chaos in the society that is why fact checking is very important. We are in the age of a lot of disinformation, because sometimes it comes from the politicians who want to score political points. Now that elections are over, let us differentiate propaganda from the actual facts, so that people can continue to believe in the media.”

On the need to do away with bias and opinionated information by the jounalists, Arogundade said:”Journalists must understand that members of the public look up to them for objective information, they expect us to be above board. I don’t think people are saying that they should not have their own political opinion, definitely some of us have our preferences for political parties, because as journalists, we are citizens, we voted during elections. But when it comes to our responsibility we should not be partisan and that is why we must present fact, and if because of our own biases and we refused to report to those things that government is not doing well, then we are not also helping the government, that we even claim to support.”

Solition-driven reporting

Mrs Funke-Treasure Durodola while speaking on the ‘Solution-driven reporting of campaign promises: Taking investigative steps, telling impactful stories, highlighted that the media is a policing institution which undertakes vigilance over the people and government and must ensure that it’s reports address core needs of the people.

She said that after the general election, jounalists must set agenda for development, by holding politicians accountable on election promises, as it affects public interest.

An International media trainer from South Africa, Raymond Joseph also took participants through a practical session on Alternative facts, election fake news and the global rise of professional Fact-checking.

The workshop train moves to Ibadan, Enugu and Portharcourt.

Lateefah Ibrahim