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‘Fake News’ And Fact-checking: A Year of Dubawa In Ghana

Dubawa is officially a year old in Ghana and what an exciting and eventful year it has been!

Our primary goal in establishing a fact-checking platform in Ghana was to contribute to the fight against misinformation and disinformation, by ensuring access to accurate and truthful information, and in the spirit of our motto, to ‘amplify truth.’ 

Dubawa’s approach to addressing the problem of ‘fake news’ and increasing awareness of fact-checking has been multi-thronged: rigorous fact-checking, fact-checking training, and media and information literacy.

Media And Fact-checking Ecosystem in Ghana 

By February 2020 when Dubawa was launched, Ghana’s media landscape was largely pluralised with a lot more Ghanaians able to access more information on mainstream and social media and on the internet than a decade ago. While this is good for the country’s growing democracy and especially for freedom of expression, it also raises concerns about the increasing spread of misinformation and disinformation, commonly referred to as ‘fake news’, in the country. This is in spite of the much-contested Electronic Communications Act (2008) which criminalises the dissemination of fake news in the country. Offenders are liable to a fine of GHS 36,000 (about $6,250) and up to five years imprisonment.

Through preliminary desk research and a Dubawa commissioned survey, we found that fact-checking as a response to addressing fake news was not mainstream although some media outlets engaged in ad hoc or occasional fact-checking. Coincidentally, by 2019 when the expansion of Dubawa to Ghana was conceived, GhanaFact, a full time fact-checking platform was launched and the Media Foundation for West Africa’s fact-checking project, Fact Check Ghana, which was vibrant in 2016 but became dormant sometime in 2017 was relaunched later in 2020. Dubawa was established to, alongside these existing organisations, deepen the culture of truth amplification in Ghana.

With Ghana’s December 2020 elections, expected to be keenly contested considering the key contenders were a former and a sitting president, on the horizon, the problem of ‘fake news’ was expected to take centre stage. Taking into account the havoc wrought by misinformation and disinformation even on developed democracies like the United States of America, a quick and strategic response was needed. 

Dubawa’s Interventions

The key thing we did in furtherance of our objectives was to raise awareness about the dangers of misinformation and disinformation and the need for fact-checking in Ghana. This message was first sold to stakeholders at Dubawa’s official launch which was chaired by the Chairperson of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), Ms Josephine Oppong and had the former Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, as the keynote speaker. The Ministry of Information was later instrumental in our Covid-19 misinformation fight as it served as a pathway to reach Ghanaians with verified Covid-19 information and fact-checking tips.

Over the period, Dubawa organised fact-checking training for members of the media and blogging community and other stakeholders. Participants in our training sessions did not only share the knowledge and skills gained with colleagues but also incorporated them into their work. They were also instrumental in supporting Dubawa’s effort at countering misinformation during the December 7, 2020 elections. 

Further inspired by the need to address the menace of misinformation and disinformation in the country, a six-month fact-checking fellowship, which commenced in August 2020 was organised. The fellowship was open to practising journalists in new media platforms (online blogs), newspaper, radio and TV stations, and researchers with the aim of providing an opportunity for journalists to acquire skills and knowledge in fact-checking; contribute to countering misinformation and disinformation by writing truth-based and factual stories; and also to institute a culture of fact-checking in newsrooms. 

Dubawa’s fellows from CitiFm/TV, GhanaWeb, The Finder Newspaper, and Bluecrest University College over the period produced over fifty fact-check reports, explainers, and media literacy articles which were cross-published on Dubawa and their respective media platforms. The fellowship also addressed the lacuna of research around ‘fake news’ in Ghana and other parts of Africa, by contributing research on the misinformation ecosystem in the country to the body of knowledge in the field.

From the onset, we realised the importance of collaboration. We worked with the knowledge that misinformation is widespread and needed to be tackled collectively by all stakeholders.  And we were right. Our partnership with the media, Alliance for African Women Initiative (AFAWI), the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), and the Coalition for Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) achieved major results. 

Within the period, Dubawa as signatories to the International Fact-checking Network (IFCN) contributed to the CoronavirusFacts Alliance which has brought together fact-checkers from over 70 countries, publishes fact-check reports in over 40 languages, and has produced over 9,000 fact-checks since the Alliance started in March 2020. Also, as a partner to Facebook and its Third-Party Fact-checking Programme, Dubawa contributed to fighting misinformation on the platform. 

We are grateful to the numerous partners who have been with us on this journey. We invite you to join us if you are yet to. 

Missed our fact-checks last year? 

Here are some of our top-performing fact-check reports of 2020:

Sobolo aka hibiscus tea, the magic Covid-19 cure?

Photo Credit: Nigerian Guardian

Hibiscus tea otherwise called Sobolo, sobo/zobo, according to a viral video, has been used by China to cure the novel coronavirus, Covid-19. The claimant, Nana Okogyedom Ntim-Barimah, Executive Director for Soul Health and Wellness Center, claimed the Chinese used ‘sobolo’ to cure the COVID-19 and called on Ghanaians to do the same.  

In the video, Nana Ntim-Berimah refers to two articles that he suggests have information on the use of the flower as a cure for the coronavirus in China. Click here for full fact-check. 

Dated, doctored and false: The facts about viral video purporting Akufo-Addo was caught receiving a $40,000 bribe as President

Photo credit: Bloomberg

A few days to the 2020 elections, a viral video with accompanying narratives suggesting the President of the country and New Patriotic Party (NPP) candidate, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, was caught on video receiving a bribe. This was discussed extensively on mainstream media and social media by the opposition party NDC with the narrative purporting that Akufo-Addo took a USD40,000 bribe in 2017 in his capacity as president, in order not to sack Alhaji Abbas who is the director of Urban Roads. Click here for full fact-check 

True! EC published Essikado-Ketan parliamentary results featuring 6 candidates instead of 3

Ghana’s Electoral Commission (EC) came under criticism from a section of the public following the official declaration of the 2020 election results. Most of the criticisms have been about how the Commission has not been able to effectively undertake its clerical functions for the purposes of updating the public. One of such was an artwork announcing the result of the Essikado-Ketan parliamentary elections. Many pro-opposition Facebook groups including NDC TV and some commentators shared images to claim that the Commission published results for six parliamentary candidates for the Essikado-Ketan seat when in fact, only three people contested for the seat. 

Dubawa’s investigations confirmed this. It was however deleted and a different one uploaded. Click here for full fact-check 

Latest Fact-checks

1. Would melting rubber in hot oil make plantain chips crispy?

2. Erectile dysfunction, A Covid-19 complication? Here’s what we know

3. Yes, studies support possibility of temperature  as factor in transmission and spread of COVID-19 

4. Fake news headlines suggest the US is giving out free visas to LGBTQ+ persons in Ghana

Explainers and Media Literacy Articles Just for You!

  1. Tips for fact-checking images 
  2. Unpacking Fake News:   Brief on Media Organisations in the frontline of combating information disorder in Ghana
  3. Fighting Misinformation on Twitter: Intricacies of Twitter’s latest pilot feature ‘Birdwatch’
  4. Covid-19 vaccination: terms and conditions issued by some Ghanaians
  5. Handle with Care: your mask is a potential COVID-19 infection Hub

Tip of The Week

We have more for you this year. 

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Share our fact-checks. 

Help people access quality information.

Get In Touch

Engage with us and our work. For feedback, suggestions, and claims you want fact-checked, feel free to contact us. 

Website: ghana.dubawa.org

Twitter: @dubawaGH

Facebook: Dubawa

Whatsapp: +233 542 818 189

Instagram: @DubawaOfficial

YouTube: Dubawa

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