A culture of “he said/she said is one of the biggest fights right now in Ghanaian Media.
Caroline Anipah, program officer for fact-checking organization Dubawa Ghana, used Ghana’s 2010 earthquake hoax as an example of the battle she and her colleagues face. In the middle of the night, a mass text message warned that cosmic rays were about to trigger a massive earthquake. Phone lines were jammed, people slept outside, and a government minister had to be woken up to calm the nation via radio.
To fight fake news ahead of December 2020 national elections, Dubawa Ghana is arming journalists and the public with tools and methods to do their own fact-checking. The group hosted its first training last week.
Kwame Boakye, a participant and reporter for online outlet Pulse, said the “he said/she said culture” in Ghana stems from the lack of access to public information. The 2019 Right To Information bill was intended to correct that, but Boakye said there are still obstacles.
“You reach out for some information, and you are told, ‘Yeah we are not done yet … you guys should wait a little,” Boakye said.
“When you rely on international organizations … that have some bit of whatever information you need … the ministries normally also come out that, ‘Hey we have an update,” Boakye said.
Fifteen participants from four different regions of Ghana gathered to learn about tools like TinEye for reverse image search, as well as how to interpret official data to verify or debunk claims.
Boakye said this part of the training was crucial.
“You could have the data, and (journalists) actually end up giving out the wrong information because of how you presented it or how you analyzed it,” Boakye said.
Anipah said this first class had a large contingent of editors and newsroom leaders. She said this was an important way Dubawa Ghana can spread these tools throughout the Ghanaian media ecosystem. Boakye said this is already happening.
“The first point of call was to have a connection with each other as a means of fact-checking,” Boakye said, adding that the spirit of collaboration fostered at the training will help build a stronger defense against misinformation going into the 2020 national elections.
Boakye also said some newsrooms face obstacles having enough resources to bring on full time fact-checkers.
“It involves budgets, it involves a lot of conversations,” Boakye said. He plans to get around this obstacle by having individual reporters incorporate fact-checking tools into their day-to-day reporting.
“With the election coming up, when there is a claim that we feel needs fact-checking, we go full bore on it,” Boakye said.
Dubawa Ghana is year old now, and a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. Anipah said the organization plans to have more training in April and May, and to collaborate with newsrooms across Ghana to publish Dubawa’s fact-checks on its partners’ platforms.