The Premium Times Centre for Investigative Reporting (PTCIJ) completed a three-nation West African training mission on fact-checking journalism, Friday, August 7, 2021 in Banjul, The Gambia, with a rousing praise from the country’s minister for information and communication infrastructure, Ebrima Sillah, who said “fact-checking skills among journalists is perhaps the most critical tool to aid good governance and strengthen democracy” in the country headed towards presidential polls in December this year.
From Sierra Leone through Liberia to The Gambia, Dubawa, West Africa’s leading fact-checking initiative of the PTCIJ, trained a total of 65 journalists and 60 journalism students on tools and strategies for stemming misinformation and disinformation in each of the countries. Dubawa already has an office in Ghana 2019 shortly after its Nigeria launch.
Mr Sillah enumerated on how fact-checking skills can “help journalists become mechanisms of clarification by reducing tension and promoting harmony in an age where citizens, armed with a simple phone, can, through the flip of a finger, send messages to millions all over the world.”
He said for democracy to grow, governments need a critical engagement with citizens for which the media represented that crucial interface “to decipher the information coming from the grassroots and capture public concerns” but worried that if information flow was tainted by falsehood or inaccuracies, not only is the credibility of the media dented but the goal of governance is compromised.
“This is why the government of Gambia welcomes Dubawa and pledges to work with you to enhance the promotion of informed choices among our citizens” said the minister, who remarked that the recent passage of the Freedom of Information law in The Gambia was, in part, the governments own good faith gesture that would help strengthen the fact-checking mechanism in the country.
The fact-checking training in The Gambia was a collaboration between the PTCIJ and the Gambian Press Union [GPU] which Dapo Olorunyomi, executive director of the PTCIJ, described as “a substantive and timely move ahead of the presidential elections which is a typical and fecund field for misinformation and disinformation to spread,” adding that the challenge of the “crisis of information is real and consequential because it has been demonstrated to negatively affect electoral integrity, public health, public policy, and the wellbeing of the democratic project itself.”
Mr Olorunyomi thanked the GPU for enabling the training, and pledged that the Premium Times Group is not only seeking to share knowledge with its peers in The Gambia by inaugurating a Dubawa project and opening a Premium Times office, “we are also developing a strategic partnership with the esteemed Media, Journalism and Communication Academy, MAJAC, to deliver capacity building programmes in data journalism, investigative reporting, students exchange programmes and on new business models” a move that Sand Mendy, chief executive of the academy said MAJAC was also excited about and warmly welcomes.
Mr Mendy applauded the PTCIJ-GPU collaboration saying through the fact-checking mechanism, the media has gotten an important and added tool to aid it in the important obligation of sanitizing the polity. His views reinforced the position of John Njei, President of Gambia’s influential civil society coalition who also pledged that the country’s civil society will whole-heartedly work with Dubawa and the media, urging them to ensure that their reporting help amplify the advocacy for democratic consolidation in the Gambia because, as he said, “we have a long way to go and a nation to build.”