Africa Check, NIJ Train Journalists on Fact-checking

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Funmi Ogundare

Africa Check, Africa’s first non-partisan, non-profit organisation in collaboration with the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ) , recently trained 18 select mid-level journalists at a two-day fact-checking workshop sponsored by the United States Embassy in Nigeria.

The workshop, held in Lagos, covered a range of Master classes on research skills, data journalism and fact-checking. The workshop also covered fact-checking key claims to spotting internet hoaxes and doctored images, as well as working with data around crime, health, education, public opinion and other topics.

The participants were specifically trained on how to fact-check claims and promises made by politicians in preparation for the general elections in Nigeria coming up in 2019.

In his remarks, the Provost of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Dr. Gbemiga Ogunleye, who was represented by the institute’s Head of Department, General Studies, Dr. Dele Omojuyigbe, said the workshop could not have come at a better time in this era of disinformation, misinformation, alternative facts or outright fabrication.

According to him, “as journalists, we should be worried that our profession is fast losing public respect and trust as a result of publication or broadcast of fake news.”

He said embracing fact-checking is a return to the good old ways of ethical and responsible journalism, adding, “fact-checking is central to our profession. Indeed, the code of conduct that guides the practice of journalism enjoins us to publish only accurate stories. The old saying: if in doubt, leave out, is probably as relevant today as it was decades ago. Journalism should be based on facts, not fiction.”

The Managing Editor, Online and Social Publications, The Nations Newspaper, Mr. Lekan Otufodunrin urged the participants to make the best use of the opportunity to add to their media skills set.

“Being a journalist in 2018 and beyond will require more than the way we have always sourced and disseminated information. We will need to master new skills like fact-checking to remain relevant and be able to function as a multimedia journalist in and out of full time employment considering the changing media landscape,” he said.

He stressed the need for journalists to subject claims by political office holders especially to scrutiny so that the public is served with the truth, adding that when such public office holders know that their claims will be fact-checked and they stand the risk of being exposed, they will be more conscious of the claims they make.

“They will do their best to ensure they don’t make empty promises which they cannot accomplish. Especially in this age of new media where too many unverified information go viral and the public is misled and misinformed, there is need for journalists to engage in regular fact-checking. The sources we rely on also need to be fact-checked to ensure that people don’t claim to be what they are not as it happened in a recent instance at The Punch,” Otufodunrin stressed.

The workshop was facilitated by Africa Check’s Nigeria Editor, Mr. David Ajikobi; Deputy Provost of Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Dr. Jide Johnson, a lecturer at the institute, Mrs. Maureen Popoola, and the Research and Community Manager of Africa Check, Mr. Allwell Okpi.

The participants, who were drawn from leading newspapers, online news websites, radio and TV stations received certificates of completion at the end of the workshop and were added to a mailing list of alumni of Africa Check training. They will get occasional emails with tips on latest developments in the world of fact-checking to keep them up-to-date in sorting facts from fiction, fake news and online misinformation.