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Research: Media Organisations on the Frontline of Combating Information Disorder in Nigeria

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By Folarin Jamiu

In August, Dubawa published the first part of a two-series research paper that essentially documents the information disorder ecosystem in Nigeria and the various media responses to the problem in the form of factchecking. The concluding part, published last week, provides further insight into the fact-checking ecosystem by interrogating the history, issues and activities surrounding media organisations on the frontline of combating information disorder in Nigeria. 

A Historical Analysis of the Establishment of Factchecking Organizations in Nigeria

Fact-checking as part of media work was institutionalised in Africa about 8 years ago with the establishment of Africa Check. It is a non-profit organisation set up in 2012 in South Africa to promote accuracy in public debate and the media in Africa. It described itself as Africa’s first independent and non-profit fact-checking organisation set up to promote accuracy in public debate and the media in Africa, as well as  work to raise the quality of information available to society across the continent. The Nigerian Editor of Africa Check, David Ajikobi, said the establishment was influenced by security and sundry issues generated from the spread of dis and misinformation around the purpose and benefits of the Polio vaccination leading to boycott of the exercise and the murder of health workers in the Northern part of the country.

Dubawa which is a project of the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) based in Nigeria was “launched in 2018 after a baseline study owing to a knowledge of the media ecosystem in Nigeria”, says Ebele Oputa, a consultant to PTCIJ. The findings of the baseline study, according to Ms Oputa, indicated that “there was declining trust in media organisations in Nigeria”, just as the “quality of national discourse was also being watered down.” This partly influenced the establishment of the Dubawa fact-checking project in addition to building the capacity of journalists across Nigeria in verification. The establishment of Dubawa as a fact-checking organisation was also influenced by the realisation that quality information is important to development as access to verified information will influence making informed and accurate decisions. 

AFP Fact Check (Nigeria) is owned by an international France’s News Agency.  AFP launched its digital verification service in France in 2017 and has grown to become one of the leading global fact-checking organisations, with dedicated journalists in countries from the United States to Myanmar. Segun Olakoyenikan who is a fact-checking journalist for AFP said the fact-checking organisation for Nigeria bureau was established in 2018, after the news agency entered into a partnership with Facebook to deepen the social network’s third-party fact-checking programme in Africa. It is part of the news agency’s digital verification service launched in 2017 to verify fake news and disinformation circulating in the world. The project was influenced by the need to reduce the spread of misinformation worldwide, create a culture of accuracy in the society, and improve the quality of information that people consume.

Structural Framework of Fact-checking Organisations in Nigeria

The fact-checking organisations in Nigeria maintain a lean staff strength and are subsidiaries of some parent organisations. The experts and those who are technology-savvy or possess skills to fact-check claims based on the IFCN principles are few. For instance, Dubawa is a non-profit entity that operates as a project within the Premium Times Center for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) which “serve as an incubation for innovative media development projects in Nigeria.” PTCIJ is structured in such a way as to allow the Dubawa fact-checking project to operate as an independent organisation. 

AFP (Nigeria) fact-checking organisation which is a project of AFP operates as an international news agency’s digital verification service at the Lagos bureau. Africa Check, on the other hand, considers itself a non-profit media organisation and regards its work as part of the journalistic genre. David Ajikobi says: “I will say in my opinion, (fact-checking activities) is more of 70 percent of the journalism genre and 30 percent development communication.” As at August 2020, AfricaCheck runs a lean operation in Nigeria and works with independent journalists and has about four permanent staff and one part time staff in its Nigeria office.

Unlike the study of Stencel (2019) which finds out that in the United States, the establishment of independent and standalone fact-checking organisations are making waves than those affiliated to media organisations; the experience in Nigeria indicated otherwise. Except for Africa Check, the other two fact-checking organisations, Dubawa and AFP, have affiliations with mainstream media organisations. 

The Technological Architecture for Factchecking

The issue of technology featured prominently in all the fact-checking processes in Nigeria. It was identified as a catalyst to the problem and at the same time one of the solutions to information disorder in the country. As purveyors of disinformation are using technology to spread false information and disrupt the information ecosystem, fact-checking organisations are using the same innovative technology to combat information disorder. Issues of digital divide and poor technological infrastructure in Nigeria were identified as some of the challenges to digital literacy and these provide opportunity for purveyors of disinformation to capture more victims and use them as tools for dissemination of misinformation… Read more


FACT CHECKS OF THE WEEK 

On August 24, a verified twitter handle, Wanazila (@wana_) claimed that President Muhammadu Buhari has signed a new police bill that gives the Police the right to arrest without a warrant or court order. How true?

On Thursday evening, hours after the World Trade Organization shortlisted Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo Iweala and South Korean’s Yoo Myung Hee for its top Job, an online medium, ObserverTimes, posted a story on its website that claims Ngozi Okonjo Iweala has…

incumbent Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Eyitayo Jegede, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), participated in a live debate organized by Channels Television. Barely an hour into the debate, on Wednesday night, the governor claimed…


QandA

  • Did President Buhari sign a new Police bill to allow officers arrest without a warrant? 

Yes, he did. President Muhammadu Buhari assented to a new Nigeria Police Bill, 2020 which accords police officers the power to arrest without a warrant except on grounds where the laws spelling out an offense permit a warrant before an arrest. The power to arrest without a warrant was spelled out in Section 38(1) of the act. Read further for more details.

  • What is the Air Virus Blocker?

According to the manufacturers, the Virus Air is designed to “eliminate all forms of microbial life” and provide “ultimate protection against airborne infectious diseases”, including for children, pregnant women and immuno-compromised people such as cancer patients. The company explained that it is a portable product that helps in preventing viruses, bacteria, and fungi from coming in contact with the user within a one-meter radius. It contains sodium chloride, natural inorganic substances – natural zeolite.

  • Is the Air Virus Blocker effective against COVID-19?

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), which is the country’s national public health institute, has stated that there is no available evidence to suggest the use of a body-worn tag often marketed as ‘Air Doctor’ purifies the air around the wearer. 

Also, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control disowned Air Doctor and other products that are marketed as capable of blocking COVID-19 from infecting the wearers. The regulatory agency told PUNCH HealthWise that the devices have not been registered by NAFDAC, even though it received applications for registration of some of them.  Hence, there is no available evidence that the Air Virus Blocker has any effect on the new coronavirus. (Continue Reading)

  • What is the recovery time for the coronavirus disease?

Using available preliminary data, the median time from onset to clinical recovery for mild cases is approximately 2 weeks and is 3-6 weeks for patients with severe or critical disease. This is according to a study by the World Health Organization. Though early research suggested that it could take 2 weeks for the body to get over a mild illness, Newer data shows that recovery varies for different people, depending on things like your age and overall health.


What can you do? 

Be alert, share our tips and don’t share false news! 


Coronavirus infection count 

Note: Total cases may be more than officially stated owing to the inability to include unconfirmed cases. Stay safe


Tip of the week 


#FakeNews Alert 

There’s precious little that we can do about the barrage of misinformation that we see daily, but there’s a lot we can do together if we learn to identify suspicious claims in the news and refrain from fueling the fire by spreading them! Here are our top picks of likely-to-be-false news which [sadly] couldn’t be fact-checked.

Linda Ikeji’s blog has, on Monday, published that China has declared a health emergency over Black death plague after a three-year-old boy was struck down by the disease. Besides, this online news platform, a screenshot of a website conveying the message has also been spotted on WhatsApp, but, does a Black Death Plague exist in China?  Be sure to find out before spreading the claim further.

  • BUHARI PROPOSES NEW SALARY FOR TEACHERS EQUAL SALARY WITH THE POLICE – SOURCE: WhatsApp Message

Be careful when reading WhatsApp broadcast messages. While they are prone to false information and opinions presented as facts, culprits on the platform can hardly be traced. Hence, it is important to verify before you share. Get your information from credible sources.


Other Fact-checks/Articles 

Strengthening Investigative Journalism for the fight against corruption in Nigeria.

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