To commemorate the International fact-checking day on April 2, DUBAWA Ghana, in partnership with the US Embassy Ghana and UniMAC-GIJ, held a symposium under the theme “Building Communities for The Fight Against Misinformation and Disinformation.” The event occurred at the UniMAC- GIJ North Dzorwulu auditorium on April 3, 2023.
The event allowed fact-checkers and journalists to share their experiences about mis/disinformation with student journalists. They also shared knowledge on how to combat the same.
In his opening remarks, Mr Kevin Brosnahan, the information officer at US Embassy Ghana, acknowledged the difficulties in disseminating information in recent times with the advent of social media. He emphasised the need for journalists to ask questions and verify assertions before going to press.
“Your role as journalists will be to inject facts and accountability into the public debate; that’s the role of the media. Ask the tough questions to get to the facts,” he said.
He added that there is a need to balance the need to publish first against the need to publish accurately. The briskness to publish first may account for inaccuracies.
Beneficiaries of the Student Fact-Checking initiative shared their experiences on how DUBAWA enabled them to become accurate and factual in their journalistic practices.
Jeffrey Nyabor shared his experience about how difficult it was initially to get data for fact-check reports. “I am actually proud of myself because, for the number of students on the programme, just a few of us were able to carry on,” he said. He added that fact-checking had challenged him to look into areas he would not have imagined.
Kennedy Twumasi talked about how the verification training has complemented his journalistic work at the Citinewsroom. He added the training had helped him in his quest to hold people accountable for the claims they make publicly.
The symposium allowed panellists to share varied opinions on “How the media and law can help fight information disorder.”
Caroline Anipah, Country Head for DUBAWA, started the discussion by clarifying what it means when discussing disinformation, misinformation and malinformation. She admonished that student journalists should avoid using the term ‘fake news’.
Kwaku Krobea Asante, team lead for FactCheckGhana, raised concerns about the political media ownership structure within Ghana’s media pluralism, leading to many political mis and disinformation.
He was also worried about the seeming lack of regulations which has opened the floodgates for many disinformation agents to spread falsehood.
“There are little or no regulations in terms of broadcasting. Anybody can just pop up to show anything on their screens,” he said. He cited an example of two teenagers who killed a friend because they were obeying the instructions of a money ritualist on Television.
He added that misinformation or disinformation is pervasive because some journalists fear losing out on favours from political figures after fact-checking their claims.
Alfred Ocansey, a seasoned presenter and newscaster with Media General, chronicled some challenges presenters face.
“As a presenter, you are very limited in verifying information. You only take instructions from your producer. If the information your producer gives you is wrong, you may be disseminating wrong information yourself,” he said.
He shared personal experiences as a journalist and the efforts by the station in combating disinformation.
“TV3 now allows presenters to take their mobile phones to the studio. Previously it was a rule that you don’t take your mobile phones to the studio because it interrupts with frequency. It is to enable the presenters to crosscheck some of this information by themselves,” Ocansey said.
He added that, as a result, he is keen on checking and rechecking before presenting any information. He and his media outlet have slowed down on being the first to publish any story.
Mr Ocansey added that the multiplicity of sources of information has also impacted the media’s quest to publish first. This presents new challenges on its own from time to time.
Zakaria Tanko Musah, a legal practitioner and a lecturer at UniMAC-GIJ, said one decision he has made is not to partake in any lawsuits against a journalist.
He quickly added that sometimes journalists are caught up in needless lawsuits because they do not adhere to the code of ethics.
“Journalists nowadays want to be the first to publish. Let’s adhere to the code of ethics; when we adhere to the code of ethics, we will be doing the right thing,” he said. He added that it is good practice that most media outlets have in-house fact-check departments.
Panellists advised students to always adhere to the code of ethics to avoid dis/misinformation in their professional practice. Students were tasked to use the tools available to verify the information before dissemination.
Nathan Gadugah, the Editor for DUBAWA Ghana, moderated the discussions. Participants of the symposium were students from UniMAC-GIJ and Islamic University.