The four-day training aimed to give participants necessary fact-checking and verification skills and knowledge to recognise and stop the spread of mis/disinformation.
Following a call for application for a two-day masterclass on factchecking, a total of 21 journalists from Yaounde, Bafoussam, Foumban and Douala were selected for the training in Yaounde on July 24-25, 2023. The session was organised by Africa’s first independent factchecking organisation, Africa Check with technical support from #defyhatenow, as member of Africa Facts Network. This collaboration falls in line with Africa Check’s leading role on the continent in building, developing and strengthening fact-checking organisations capacity by offering in-depth train-the-trainer programmes to strengthen African countries’ information ecosystems.
Journalists Build capacity on factchecking
Welcoming the participants and guest trainers, Ngala Desmond, Cameroon Country Project Manager stressed on the importance of such training in Cameroon, as the country is slowly moving toward the electoral year. It should be noted that mis/disinformation is usually rife before, during and after elections, owing to different parties’ interest in managing public affairs. This unfortunately serves as a driver of hatespeech, which if left unattended to, can incite violence in communities. He concluded by urging the attendees to take their lessons seriously and build their capacity in order to uphold their credibility, even in the face of rising citizen journalism.
Setting the pace with the first training, journalists selected from both mainstream and new media outlets shared experience on the types of mis/disinformation seen online. The facilitated discussions were led by Valdez Onanina and Azil Momar, from Africa Check’s Dakar office in Senegal. They started the day by presenting Africa Check’s mission, work and role on the continent, which explain their presence in Cameroon. For two days, a series of topics were treated including: tips for spotting false information online, online tools for verifying images and videos, the five-step fact-checking process and its application and advanced online search techniques. The theoretical part of each topic was completed by a practice, to assess the understanding of the learners. Either individually or in groups, the feedback helped the lead trainers to adjust the content to the context.
CSO leaders upgrade skills on countering mis/disinformation
On July 26 to 27, 2023 a similar session followed, this time around with 21 leaders of community-based organisations. Widespread disinformation, especial online via social media affects the decision making and intervention process of grassroot organisations. The factchecking masterclass aimed at helping selected participants to gain knowledge on existing information verification tools and techniques that can help them in their field of operation. Going through the same exercises as their predecessor, the teaching and learning process was spiced by examples of photos, videos and audios of doubtful origins widely spread via social media.
On the importance of factchecking skills to CSO leaders, the session was a reminder for community leaders to always verify information at their disposal before taking action. A video report of a failed polio vaccine in Nigeria was projected, showing an entire community struck by crippled children due to disinformation about the vaccine. Taking examples in Cameroon, participants shared their experience about fake photos and videos relating to the ongoing crisis in the North West and South West Regions of the country, requesting them to take action. However, most of these usually turned out to be false information.
Before saying quits, both groups pledged to practice acquired skills in order to improve their quality of their reports about happenings in their communities. Another commitment taken, was equally the decision to improve the relationship with their direct audience and enhance trust to help curb mis/disinformation.
About Africa Check
Africa Check, the continent’s first independent non-profit fact-checking organisation, supported by philanthropic organisations and individual donors, was established in South Africa in 2012. Through our work we seek to reduce the spread and impact of misinformation and promote accurate, evidence-based understanding in the public, governments and media. This will ultimately strengthen democracy, foster engaged citizenship and improve life outcomes across the continent.
#defyhatenow, an Initiative of r0g_agency for open culture and critical transformation in Berlin, was introduced in Cameroon with funding from the German Federal Foreign Office. Applying a bottom-up approach, we work to provide community-based, data-driven solutions to the problem of hate speech, misinformation and fake news. #defyhatenow initiative is implemented in Cameroon by Association Civic Watch, working to enhance the capacities of primarily youth and civil society organisations with focus on creating a framework for building trust among stakeholders by mobilising civic action against all forms of hate speech and incitement to violence.
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