West Africa’s media innovation and development organisation, the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), through its sub-regional fact-checking project, DUBAWA, today in Abuja, named its coveted fact-checking and research fellowship, the Kwame Karikari fact-checking and research fellowship, after Professor Kwame Karikari, former professor at the School of Communication Studies of the University of Ghana, Legon, former Dean of Communication Studies at Wisconsin University and founder of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA).
PTCIJ, in a statement Friday, April 23, by its Chief Executive Officer, Dapo Olorunyomi, said it decided to name the three-year-old fellowship after Professor Karikari in recognition of his “life work in the development of accountability journalism, his mentorship and training of generations of journalists in the sub-region and his redoubtable work in the advocacy for and promotion of media freedom in West Africa.”
Olorunyomi said the idea of the fellowship was “inspired by the need to tackle and curb the rapid spread of mis- and dis-information and further expand the art and reach of verified and accurate information to rural and urban societies, to institutionalise a culture of fact-checking across the sub-region, and to build knowledge around the menace of information disorder.”
The Kwame Karikari fellowship will follow a twin-track, according to Olorunyomi, each of which offers either a six-months fellowship for intending fact-checkers seeking to incorporate enhanced verification measures into their work; and the six-month scholars fellowship for academics seeking a path to original research in knowledge production around information disorder.
Moreover, Olorunyomi said, both tracks of the fellowship are designed to promote accountability of public institutions, institutionalise the art and culture of amplifying truth and stemming the phenomenon of programmed falsehood in newsrooms, while building competencies to strengthen democratic principles in the Anglophone axis of the West African sub-region.
The fact-checking track, according to Olorunyomi, is open only to journalists and reporters with at least a first degree who are currently working in traditional and new media from Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and The Gambia. For this category, he said, experience in fact-checking is not required of prospective applicants.
“All that is essential, is their interest in pursuing fact-checking of stories pertaining to politics, economy, health, governance, business, and media, as well as the willingness to think about ways to expand the reach of verified information to grassroots communities that are targeted constituencies for political, social, and cultural misinformation,” Olorunyomi said.
The scholar track, he said, is an enhanced programme initiated through Dubawa’s Information Disorder Analysis Centre (IDAC), and is a project open only to postdoctoral and graduate/research fellows keen to create knowledge on the information disorder ecosystem through extensive research, following an identification of gaps in knowledge that should drive policy and democratic discourse around technological consequences, social media, and political legislation.
The Kwame Karikari fellowship is supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Washington DC, and the Heinrich Boll Stiftung Foundation (HBS). They both offer a monthly stipend to cover all costs of the investigation and research project for fellows.
The application call announced today will last until May 10, when a four-day selection process will begin. After a one- week training offered by a team of international scholars and experts, the fellowship will commence at the end of May and run through November.