MONROVIA-Africa Check in partnership with The Stage Media Liberia has trained 21 Liberian Journalists in fact-checking. These 21 journalists were selected from three of Liberia’s 15 Counties: Montserrado, Margibi and Grand Bassa.
The two-day fact-checking and verification masterclass for Journalists 2023 is a US State Department Funded project implemented by Africa Check in collaboration with the Stage Media-Liberia.
The training which commenced May 8 and ended May 9; focused on understanding how and why false information spreads, identify false information online, using online verification and geolocation tools to verify the origin of photos and videos and knowing where and how to find data that can be used to verify the accuracy of information among others.
The masterclass was being facilitated by Ms. Cayley Clifford, Africa Check Deputy Editor. She told participants about the importance of getting their facts right as journalists.
Ms. Clifford provided participants with tips for determining misinformation and disinformation online and how those claims can be checked.
According to her, there are more verifying tools that can be used to for fact-checking pointing out that some of those tools are more sophisticated than the other, therefore, it is important to use what gives one the answer they seek.
“If you can’t find anything online, and you’ve reached out to experts and authorities, write what you have. In that case, you may want to manually do your search” she said.
Cayley furthered: “You don’t necessarily need tools to do a fact-check. Just from paying keen observations on every bit of details that is in the video, or on a picture, you can do a fact-check.”
She advised journalists to always follow the golden rule adding, “If it sounds too good to be true, leave it. Always make sure your information is coming from a trusted source.”
She also cautions the participants not to settle for the first answer or result instead, they should always dig deeper if they can.
At the same time, Bettie Johnson Mbayo, Co-Partner of The Stage Media explained her share of experience in fact-checking.
Madam Mbayo believes that journalists should take advantage of the training knowing that fact-checking is important more as Liberia poised to have it’s much anticipated October 2023 Election.
She encouraged the participants to take verification seriously before publishing information. “The Stage Media is not training Journalists for attraction, but to build their skills to go back to their respective instutions and get rid of misinformation and disinformation,” Mbayo noted.
Many of the participants did not have any previous knowlede about fact-checking, while some of them thinks it’s time consuming and a waste of one’s energy.
“When I see photos to verify them; it used to be a problem, but i can now verify them because of this training, Journalist Oretha Bundoo Seh of ECOWAS Radio said in an interview after the training.
“As a newspaper journalist, I thought it wasn’t important to fact-check photos I used on my stories, but from this training I understand that it is important, and moving forward, I am going to practice that.” Leila B. Gbati another participant and a Journalist with the Women Voices Newspaper.
“I used to think that being the first to break the news makes you a better journalist. But I now know that getting the facts right is what makes you a better journalist.” Ayouba Dukuly of Voice of Voiceless online TV said.
Nemenlah Cyrus Harmon of Spoon Network said, “Prior to this gathering, I used to think fact-checking was that difficult. But given the knowledge, the tools I now have, I can say it’s easy to be done.”
For Olivia Banwon of Truth FM she said, “I never used to think fact-check was very important in reporting as a journalist, but going forward, I’m going to get engaged with verifying the facts.”
The Stage Media (TSM) is Liberia’s first fact-checking media institution with the overarching vision of mitigating misinformation and disinformation.
Since its establishment in 2020, The Stage Media – Liberia has collaborated and nurtured partnerships that espoused the values of tackling misinformation and disinformation while bringing to light untold stories of survivors of (abuse or civil war) and ensuring that the powerful and elites are held accountable.
Africa Check on the other hand is the continent’s first independent non-profit fact-checking organization, supported by philanthropic organizations and individual donors.
It was established in South Africa in 2012. This team has debunked inflammatory statements about the number of foreign nationals in the country and revealed errors in the national crime statistics.
Their work seeks to reduce the spread and impact of misinformation and promote accurate, evidence-based understanding in the public, governments and media. This will ultimately strengthen democracy, foster engaged citizenship and improve life outcomes across the continent.