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DUBAWA holds fact-checking training for govt officials & public information professionals ahead of Sierra Leone’s election

DUBAWA, the fact-checking arm of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) in collaboration with the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), has concluded a three-day workshop on fact-checking and digital verification for government officials, civil society activists, and public information professionals from various institutions in Sierra Leone.

The training from May 17 to 19, 2023, in Freetown, was geared towards combating the incidence of information disorder, popularly called ‘fake news’ as the country prepares for the 2023 elections next month.

Participants from the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL), Statistics Sierra Leone, West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), Information Ministry, and election observer groups, etc., were taken through fact-checking and digital verification tools. They were also schooled on accountability journalism and why state actors must collaborate with journalists to promote a healthy democratic environment, among other topics. 

Speaking on the necessity of the workshop, the Deputy Director at CJID in charge of Fact-Checking and Verification, Ms Caroline Anipah, said it was essential to equip government officials, media personnel, and civil society groups with the requisite skills to combat information disorder.

She noted that the issue of information disorder is of grave concern to DUBAWA and its partners as the June 24 elections in Sierra Leone draw closer. She added that if state actors do not engage in disinformation or allow themselves to be used by merchants of disinformation, then the general public, some of whom are gullible, will be better served in a democracy.

With the emergence of Artificial Intelligence and other sophisticated technologies, Ms Anipah believes it has become imperative for all stakeholders in the information ecosystem to acquire the necessary skills in combating disinformation.

“This has been our core mandate in all the five English-speaking West African countries – Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and The Gambia,” she added.  

In his presentation, Nathan Gadugah, the Editor for DUBAWA Ghana, with editorial supervision over Sierra Leone, noted that ‘fact-checking and verification’ is essential for practising journalists and government officials who interface with the public daily. 

He took participants through the various agents and techniques of disinformation and their motivations for polluting the information ecosystem to arm them in the fight against fake news. 

For the many participants who wanted to learn the tools of fact-checking and digital verification, DUBAWA’s researcher Silas Jonathan trained the participants on using fact-checking tools such as Google Reverse Image Search, Invid Video Verification, and Geo-Location Search’.

After the workshop, The Head of Media and Public Education for the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL), Christopher Arthur Jones, commented that the “training was awesome.” He added that he would incorporate the fact-checking and verification skills he has learnt into his work as the officer of the EC.

Sarah Kallay, an award-winning journalist and blogger in Freetown, also recounted her experience concerning the training. 

“The training in the past three days has significantly helped broaden my knowledge about fact-checking claims or information. Knowing how to verify an image and a video using different fact-checking tools is completely novel. I appreciate this intensive training conducted by the DUBAWA team.”

She commended CJID and DUBAWA for taking their time and efforts to train the participants through the arduous but worthwhile verification training.

“In all my years as a journalist, I had never had such a massive opportunity to be taught how to use tools on the internet to fact-check fake news or information,” she noted. 

After training government officials and civil society groups in Sierra Leone, DUBAWA is expected to execute similar training sessions for journalists in Makeni and Kenema.

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