Africa Check announces Winners of 2021 Fact-checking Awards

Africa Check, on Tuesday, announced the winners of the 2021 Africa’s Fact-checking Awards, at a virtual ceremony at this year’s African Investigative Journalism Conference.

Jean le Roux from the Digital Forensic Research Lab in Cape Town, South Africa, clinched the award for Fact-Check of the Year by a practising journalist for his fact-check on claims by the Nigerian Army that reports of soldiers shooting peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate in October 2020 were “fake news.” 

His findings invalidated claims by the army that the shooting were “fake” and confirmed that armed soldiers fired their weapons at the protesters.

A Nigerian, Oluwasegun Olakoyenikan of AFP Fact Check, emerged runner-up in this category for his report that debunked a claim that the “EU Human Rights Forum” commended President Buhari for the swift rescue of hundreds of kidnapped boys in December 2020. The claim was circulated by Nigerian presidential aide, Bashir Ahmad and several Nigerian media outlets. In his report, Olakoyenikan also found that the forum was non-existent.

Reagan Kiyimba from Uganda’s Makerere University, won the Fact-Check of the Year by a Student Journalist, for his report investigating a claim that the country had a herbal cure for Covid-19.

A student from the CESTI Journalism School in Senegal, Fatma Mbacké, was runner-up in this category. Mbacké debunked a false claim that Ghanaian farmers had stopped exporting cocoa to Europe.

Some writers and fellows of Dubawa, West Africa independent verification platform, also made it to the award’s final shortlist.

In the Working Journalist category, Dubawa writers, Maxine Danso and Silas Jonathan, alongside Ghana’s Programme Officer, Caroline Anipah, were shortlisted for a collaborative fact check they entered for the fact-checking award. 

Kunle Adebajo, a 2020 Dubawa fellow, was shortlisted for his report on an alleged military raid of Boko Haram hideout, while Elizabeth Ogunbamowo, a 2021 fellow, made the cut for her fact-check on the claim that Twitter does not recognise President Muhammadu Buhari.

The awards, which is in its eight year, is notable for annually appreciating and promoting fact-checking journalism in Africa. The organisers said 216 entries from 28 countries were received, an increase from last year which recorded 192 entries from 27 African countries.

“This is the first time that we have received more than 200 since we started the awards in 2014,” Africa Check’s Chief Editor, Lee Mwitisaid revealed, at the awards ceremony. 

Africa Check’s Executive Director, Noko Makgato, said the judges were impressed by the quality of entries submitted.

“Each year, as we receive an increasing number of entries, the quality of the work is also rising, making it even more difficult for our judges to select the winners. This bodes well for the practice of fact-checking journalism, which continues to grow in remarkable ways,” he said.

The winner of the best fact-check in the category for working journalists is awarded a prize of $3,000 and the runner-up takes $1,500. The winner of the students category takes home $2,000 while the runner-up collects $1,000.

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