Four days after completing its training programme of 22 Liberian journalists in Monrovia, DUBAWA, the West African fact-checking platform initiated by the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) Monday, August 2, inaugurated its Gambian operations, and commenced a three-day fact-checking training at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, Serrekunda, for 16 Gambian journalists drawn from the country’s print, broadcast and online press ahead of the country’s December 2021 general elections.

“Our current engagement in The Gambia is logical, as part of efforts at defining a common solution to a common problem within the ECOWAS sub-region,” said Dapo Olorunyomi, team leader for the training experts, who said “many of the West African journalism community owe their origins to a common late 19th century anti-colonial heritage of independence movements” whose current problems with sustainability, audience growth, market expansion, and economic success have similar causes in the after-effects of “keenly appreciating and managing the implications of the digital transition in our business environment.”

Part of these outcomes, according to Mr Olorunyomi, are “the disruptive and debilitating internal impact on the business model of our industry that had traditionally depended, in most part, on advertising, on hard copy circulation in the print sector, and on events,” adding that “the other common problem, that which brought us here specifically, is the information crisis that has triggered the wave of misinformation and disinformation that many of our political leaders love to call fake news.”

At the opening of the Liberian training, at the Murex Plaza in Monrovia, the country’s Deputy Minister for Information, Boakai Fofana, speaking on the theme Stemming the Spread of Misinformation in Liberia to Advance Good Governance and Democracy, thanked the PTCIJ and its Liberian partner, The Stage Media, for “organising this very important training that is geared towards giving journalists the skills needed to do their work in order to contribute positively to the national discourse,” which he said “poses new challenges to the journalism profession.”

Mr Fofana said even in the midst of this ”national discourse,” his government “has set itself apart for creating a blossoming media environment which continues to flourish. And this received a boost under the leadership of President George Weah when his administration, without any urging, decided to decriminalise speech offenses in the first year of his presidency,” adding that “this is testament to the resolve of the government to ensuring that journalists work in an environment that is free of harassment and intimidation.”

The minister thanked PTCIJ and The Stage Media for initiating the training “on providing journalists the skillset needed for fact-checking and combating fake news” contrasting this to the growth of an information crisis in Liberia which, in previous years, had seen “an upsurge in fake news propel primarily on social media platforms. And in many instances…spewed by politicians looking to gain political capital over a rival.”

Journalists should not allow themselves to be used as puns in what Mr Fofana called political chess games, counseling Liberian journalists “to go beyond the periphery and dig deeper” because, in his opinion, “Fake news can have dire consequences, from creating mistrust in the media to undermining the democratic process.” He assured DUBAWA, the West African fact-checking platform initiated by the PTCIJ, of the “fullest support of the government of Liberia as we strive to reshape the image of our country.”

Euriah Togar, head of the journalism programme at the University of Liberia; Malcom Joseph, Chief Executive of the Liberian Centre for Media and Society and Peacebuilding and Siatta Scott, head of the Female Journalists of Liberia, shared Mr Fofana’s view that the fact-checking training was timely, welcome and bound to help stem the menace of misinformation and disinformation in Liberia, with all of them pledging support and partnership with Dubawa and the Stage Media.

Continuing on her theme, at the Liberian training, of engaging sub-regional peers “in executing this training on the global information crisis of misinformation and disinformation, and the challenges they pose to democracy, electoral integrity, public health and sound public policy in the country,” Oluwatosin Alagbe, the Programme Director of PTCIJ restated in The Gambia, Monday, that Dubawa, a signatory to International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) Codes and Principles which guides its practice, and also a member of the Facebook third-party fact-checking programme had come to the Gambia in the same spirit of “contributing to help build a sub region defined by accountability and integrity which a substantive fact-checking journalism can help engender.”

So far, and for the same mission, Ms. Alagbe said, “we have trained over three hundred and twenty (320) journalists and have held previous training sessions in Nigerian and Ghanaian universities with journalism programmes.”

From its modest beginnings in 1871, Ms. Alagbe noted that the Gambian press has earned a noble place in the country as a nation builder, consensus mechanism and foremost institution of modernity and promotion of the liberty and freedom of the Gambian citizens.

“We cannot be prouder to be here among brothers and sisters who, like us back home in Ghana and Nigeria, and as we had seen in Sierra Leone and in Liberia, have been strong armies in the war for truth, accountability and integrity in government,” she said.

Ms. Alagbe challenged Gambian journalists to take fact-checking seriously as a definition of their professionalism and as into its journalism earlier this year, helping to fight misinformation and promoting media literacy in the country.

She said the training conducted in collaboration with the Gambia Press Union will cover accountability journalism, theory and history of fact-checking, as well as the structure and ethics of the practice.

“As we did in Liberia and in Sierra Leone, we expect trainees from the programme to also learn how to use data and geolocation tools, the Freedom of Information Law to strengthen their fact-checking practices, and new business methods to help the Gambia media tunnel through the current smoggy landscape of sustainability and growth.”

Media leaders led by Lamin Jabateh and civil society captains including Mardi Jobarteh of the WestMinster Foundation, Saidina Alie Jarjou of the Action Aid, and John Charles Njie of the Transitional Justice Growth Group welcomed Dubawa as an important institution for the promotion of electoral integrity, sound public policy and a redoubtable public health intervention in the environment of an infodemic.

“At a time when the Gambian society is so polarised as we have it here today, what we expect is a press that is courageous to tell the truth and be accurate in its reporting and our excitement is that Dubawa will be a very helpful addition to the conversation of pushing our democracy forward,” said John Charles Njie in his contribution, echoed by both Saidina Alie Jarjou of Action AID and MArdi Jobarteh of Westminster Foundation all who unanimously offered PTCIJ a welcoming hand to the Gambia and proposed a partnership relationship with DUBAWA in its mission.

Experts and facilitators that will conduct the training are: Dapo Olorunyomi, the Executive Director, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, Adedeji Adekunle, Director DUBAWA and Caroline Anipah, Programmes Manager, DUBAWA Ghana. The training is being coordinated by the DUBAWA team with the support of Lamin Jahateh of the Gambia Press Union.

About PTCIJ and DUBAWA:

The Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) is a media and innovation organisation founded in 2014 to promote a genuinely independent media landscape in West Africa through investigative journalism, fact-checking, open data and civic technology. Over the years, PTCIJ has instituted various projects and programmes to achieve its vision of an independent media landscape. PTCIJ is an off-shoot of the Premium Times online newspaper, a leading and well-known provider of news in Nigeria today.

DUBAWA is Nigeria’s independent, transparent and non-partisan verification and fact-checking platform, initiated by the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) in 2018.

Dubawa aims at instituting a culture of truth and verification in public discourse and journalism through strategic partnerships between the media, government, civil society organisations, technology giants and the public.

Since 2019, Dubawa has been holding successful annual fellowships for journalists, fact checkers and researchers in The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone to equip fellows with skills in fact-checking and verification in combating the wide spread regime of misinformation in the West African sub-region and to also contribute to knowledge around information disorder in the subregion.

For more information or enquiries about the Training, contact us:

contact@dubawa.org

Twitter – @DubawaNG @DubawaGH @DubawaSL

Facebook – Dubawa

Instagram – dubawa_official

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