Ghanaian media are increasingly picking up the mantle of fact-checking ahead of December’s national elections. National radio station 3FM has launched a dedicated fact-checking program, fact-checkers are being featured on national television programming, and fact-checking organizations are getting training requests from major outlets.
Caroline Anipah, program officer at fact-checker Dubawa Ghana, said the scale of fact-checking efforts in the 2020 cycle has outpaced previous national elections.
“In 2016, we had Media Foundation for West Africa in collaboration with Joy FM do some fact-checking,” Anipah said. “This time, we are seeing entire shows being dedicated to it.”
Rabiu Alhassan, managing editor of GhanaFact, said in addition to outlets dedicating time and resources to fact-checking, many are reaching out to fact-checking organizations for assistance as well.
“We are seeing that anytime we publish our work, mainstream media organizations pick our work up and actually publicize it on the platform,” Alhassan said. One of his pieces on education policy got him invited onto the national talk show “Point of View,” where he fact-checked a deputy education minister live on air.
Alhassan said there is pent-up demand in Ghana for mainstream media outlets to incorporate more fact-checking into their programming. In 2019, his organization conducted a countrywide survey of 400 Ghanaians to better understand their attitudes around both mis- and disinformation.
“More than 90% said there was a need for a full-time fact-checking organization in the country,” Alhassan said, adding this large figure was part of the impetus for the launch of GhanaFact in August 2019.
Jonas Nyabor, a reporter for Ghanaian media outlet Citi FM, said he’s seen a similar sentiment in the reaction to his work.
“For a few of the reports we’ve done we’ve had a number of commendations from the public saying this is what they’ve been expecting the media in Ghana to be doing all this while,” Nyabor said. He added that his fact-checks have also increased interest from the public.
“My managers and my editors have seen the importance of it,” he said.
Anipah attributed the increased interest to fact-checking’s visibility during the COVID-19 infodemic. She also said political polarization in Ghana has made fact-checking more crucial in the 2020 cycle. A July voter registration drive was marred by violence, resulting in at least one death and three arrests.
“I think these are all signs that the media needs to step in to ensure we have free and fair elections and also that the peace we are enjoying continues even after the elections,” Anipah said.
Both GhanaFact and Dubawa Ghana have been training Ghanaian journalists in the run-up to the election. In June, Dubawa trained 100 journalists as part of a collaboration with the Center for Democratic Governance in Ghana. GhanaFact conducted a similar training with DW Akademie.
Alhassan said some of his student journalist trainees are pitching themselves to media organizations as volunteer fact-checkers going into the election season. He’s optimistic that these efforts will help grow the fact-checking community in Ghanaian media.
“They’ll translate some of the skills that we provide for them during their stay with these media organizations, and the ripple effect would go on and on,” Alhassan said.