The ‘fact-checking arm’ of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), DUBAWA, has completed a comprehensive digital verification and fact-checking training for journalists in Sierra Leone ahead of the June 24, 2023, general elections.
Over 100 journalists selected from Makeni and Kenema took part in what they describe as a career-transforming workshop that will help in the fight against information disorder which is popularly called ‘fake news.’
The training was under the auspices of the Google News Initiative campaign geared towards building the capacities of journalists in peri-urban areas across English-speaking West African countries. Similar training had already taken place in Nigeria and Ghana.
The Makeni Experience
After the DUBAWA team completed a similar training for state actors, civil society and election observer groups in Freetown, it headed to Makeni, the largest city in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone, for a knowledge-sharing exercise with journalists.
Makeni is believed to be the stronghold of the opposition All People’s Congress in Sierra Leone.
A total of 54 journalists from various media houses in Makeni, Kambia, Kabala and Koinadugu, all in the North, and from Kono District in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone converged for the two-day workshop in Makeni from May 22 to 23, 2023.
The journalists were exposed to the fact-checking process and digital verification tools, including reverse image verification and the InVid tools that would help them identify the various forms of disinformation that emerge as the country prepares for the election.
The facilitators, led by the Deputy Director of CJID, in charge of DUBAWA, Ms Caroline Anipah, also took the journalists through the use of Google tools, ethics of journalism and fact-checking, and the safety of journalists.
If the encounter with the journalists at Makeni was exciting, that with the Kenema journalists from May 25 to 26, 2023, was thrilling.
Kenema also believed to be the stronghold of the incumbent government, is in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone. The training featured 50 journalists reporting for various media organisations in Kenema, Bo, and its environment.
As was the case in Makeni, the Communications officer for DUBAWA and one of the facilitators, Ms Maxine Danso, took the journalists through “Information Ecosystem and Verification,” pointing out the various manifestations of what we call fake news and how journalists can combat same.
In his presentations on “Reporting Versus Fact-checking” and “Identifying a Claim,” Nathan Gadugah, Editor for DUBAWA Ghana, Sierra Leone, encouraged the journalists to go a step further by holding duty bearers accountable for the things they do and the promises they make.
Roselena Ahiable – DUBAWA Programme Officer for Ghana, Sierra Leone, also took the journalists through “Research Tools: Google Search Engine, Google Advanced Search, Google Trends, Google News, Google Pinpoint, etc.” She noted that, as a fact-checker, journalists, researchers, and even students with a good knowledge of online research tools will significantly help make research work intelligent, quick, easy, and above all, time-saving.
The Deputy Director of Accountability and Programmes at CJID, Mboho Eno, took the participants through “Journalists’ Safety and Security during Elections: Digital and Physical.”
He charged the journalists to do a proper security mapping and analysis of the various areas to which they are deployed so they can preempt attacks on them. He also charged them to know and understand their rights, ethics, and the legal provisions under which they work. He explained that this prevents journalists from falling foul of the law, needlessly injuring people’s reputations, or incurring their wrath.
On her part, Ms Anipah said the four-day intensive training is to build the capacity of journalists from both the traditional and new media to fight information disorder ahead of the elections.
She commended the journalists for their passion and interest in the training even though the invitation came at short notice. She also charged them to always report the facts and the ‘truth’, as enshrined in their ethics.
The journalists in Makeni and Kenema were excited about the training and new knowledge they had acquired. They did not hesitate to share their experiences after the training.
Jestina Komba, one of the participants from Koidu Town, Kono District, told DUBAWA that she is excited about the training on fact-checking. She added that fact-checking processes and tools were a novelty to her and her colleagues.
Mahmoud Fofanah, who resides in Makeni Town, shared similar sentiments, indicating that he will ensure he teaches his colleagues at his workplace.
“I am excited about the training. I am also grateful to DUBAWA for it. As a journalist working in the provinces, I have little or no knowledge about fact-checking and the digital tools to do a fact-check. However, with this training, I am in a better position to verify every piece of information I come across in my career,” Melrose Red Mannah, a journalist working for Nyapui Radio in Kenema, shared her experience after the training.
Paul Kamara — a journalist and a blogger from Bo, expressed his appreciation to the facilitators for the knowledge-sharing experience.
The team will move to Liberia and The Gambia for the final Google News Initiative training on fact-checking and verification for journalists.