On July 4, 2023, a significant online Regional Experience Sharing Event took place at 16:00 GMT, uniting fact-checkers from Ethiopia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Kenya. The event’s primary objective was to foster discussions and share valuable insights regarding fact-checking and the prevailing disinformation trends specific to each region. By harnessing the power of virtual connectivity, the gathering facilitated interactive brainstorming sessions, enabling participants to exchange best practices with esteemed experts in the field. Inform Africa took the initiative to gather peer organizations in the region as a part of Meedan’s Check Global program, which supports independent journalism, media literacy, and human rights efforts by providing software, training, and networking opportunities
During the event, Kirubel Tesfaye, Lead Fact-checker at HaqCheck, shared the opportunities and challenges of countering disinformation within Ethiopia. They underscored the advantages HaqCheck enjoys, such as a proficient team well-versed in the intricacies of fact-checking. This team adeptly employs social listening tools to monitor national and international conversations, ensuring an impartial and non-partisan approach.
Nevertheless, the speaker also acknowledged the hurdles faced by HaqCheck, including limited access to information, the need for advanced technological verification tools, and financial constraints. Moreover, due to their efforts to debunk ethnocentric and politically motivated disinformation content, HaqCheck has faced criticism from various quarters.
Consequently, the speaker outlined HaqCheck’s comprehensive strategy to counter disinformation effectively. This includes active involvement in various research initiatives, continuous improvement of media monitoring capabilities, establishing a local data center, and proactive engagement with journalists, media practitioners, and social media influencers to enhance fact-checking proficiency and media literacy. HaqCheck has also applied to join the esteemed International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) and is currently in the process of becoming a signatory.
The discussion started with a curious question from Nyakerario Omari, a Fact Checker at Africa Uncensored. She shares the challenges faced during their training of community radio journalists and high school students and invites the attendees to reflect on the issue. Kirubel highlighted that the primary challenge was the lack of access to modern technology, such as smartphones and computers. Additionally, the low adaptability of these groups to new fact-checking tools was also identified as a significant obstacle. These barriers can hinder the effectiveness of fact-checking efforts, making it challenging to combat misinformation and promote accurate reporting.
Edgar Karuhanga, Fact-checker at Debunk Media Initiative in Uganda, emphasized the challenges confronting fact-checkers in the country. These include a need for recognition and importance in fact-checking, limited access to up-to-date data, resource constraints, and an audience that often needs more critical analysis skills. Additionally, they pointed out that the timeliness of fact-checking poses a significant challenge, as information spreads rapidly, continually rendering fact-checking results irrelevant by the time they are completed. Despite these hurdles, the representative identified opportunities within the fact-checking industry, such as the need for other fact-checking organizations and the potential to reshape narratives by providing accurate information
Similarly, Linda Mujuru, a Global Press Journal reporter based in Harare, Zimbabwe, echoed the concerns raised, emphasizing the necessity for greater emphasis on fact-checking within the news-making process and establishing dedicated fact-checking desks within media organizations. They also stressed the urgency of fact-checking into university curricula, as it directly impacts the quality of journalism and the wider community. Additionally, accessing non-political information from the government proves challenging.
Mohamed Alassam, Cofounder & Managing Partner at Beam Reports in Sudan, underscored the significance of collaboration among fact-checkers to address disinformation trends, particularly those related to the Sudan-Ethiopia borders. They firmly believe that partnership enhances the fact-checking process and facilitates the dissemination of fact-checking results. The representative expressed keen interest in further collaboration between fact-checkers.
Finally, the Executive Director of Inform Africa expressed the organization’s commitment to sharing the insights gained from the meeting with their partners and initiating conversations on potential collaboration. They acknowledged the wealth of knowledge that can be gleaned from big organizations like Africa Check but also highlighted the unique value that emerging fact-checking organizations, such as Inform Africa, bring to the table.
The event served as an invaluable platform for fact-checkers to discuss their challenges and exchange ideas on enhancing fact-checking practices within their respective countries. By collectively combating disinformation and promoting fact-checking, these dedicated professionals drive positive change in the region.