UNESCO-supported fact checking platform launched in The Gambia

The Gambia’s first and only digital fact checking platform has gone live after it was officially launched by the country’s Minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure, Mr Ebrima Sillah, on 14th October.

FactCheck Gambia (www.factcheckgambia.org) was developed to close the palpable market gap for independent, non-partisan fact-checked and verified information, particularly about Covid_19 and elections, as The Gambia approaches the first post-dictatorship presidential elections in December, this year.

Developed by Jokkolabs Banjul with the support of UNESCO Dakar, the platform was built at a time when the growing menace of information disorder gradually undermines trust in the Gambian media and the country’s burgeoning democracy.

Speaking on behalf of the UN Resident Coordinator in The Gambia, Ms Aissata De said the development of FactCheck Gambia platform is part of efforts by UNESCO and other UN agencies to tackle the rising phenomenon of fake news and misinformation.

UNESCO undertook the development of FactCheck Gambia under its component of the UN Peace Building Fund project entitled ‘Young Women and Men as Stakeholders in Ensuring Peaceful Democratic Processes and Advocates for the Prevention of Violence and Hate Speech’.

The two-year project is being implemented by a consortium of UNESCO, UNDP and UNFPA in partnership with local implementing partners. One of the key components of the project is to address hate speech and counter fake news and misinformation.

“FactCheck Gambia is aimed at curbing the spread of fake news and misinformation both on traditional and social media by verifying and correcting false or misleading claims or statements,” Ms De, who is the UNDP Resident Representative to The Gambia, highlighted.

She further pointed out that one of the biggest challenges in the news media industry today and in the coming decades is dealing with fake news in all its forms.

Because of the global surge in information disorder, UNESCO has developed a model curriculum on fact checking. The new resource is aimed mainly at journalism educators and trainers, but is also of direct interest to practicing journalists and others who are interested in quality information.

Generally, actions to combat fake news should support, and not violate, fundamental rights and freedoms. Access to reliable and trustworthy information, such as that produced by critical independent journalism and fact checkers, is a potent force to combat disinformation.

Michel Elvis Kenmoe, the head of UNESCO Dakar Communication and Information Sector, said in order to reach as many people as possible, especially the uneducated ones, UNESCO would provide further support to FactCheck Gambia to produce fact check audios recorded in the major national languages and disseminate it through the radios, including the community radios, and the social media platforms.

To ensure quality products for the website, UNESCO had trained a total of 30 journalists from both the print, broadcast and online media platforms on fact checking.

Training by FactSpace West Africa focused on the role of fact-checkers in safeguarding elections and protecting democracies; how to fact-check politicians; digital tools for fact-checking, and how to identify ‘fake news’ in text, picture, video and audio.

To ease coordination, the 30 journalists will be working through the Media Academy for Journalism and Communication (MAJAC), a professional journalism training school, in the management and administration of FactCheck Gambia.

The Managing Director of MAJAC, Sang Mendy, who doubles as the manager of FactCheck Gambia, said they have a team of strong and committed editors, researchers, fact-checkers and freelancers to make FactCheck Gambia one of the most vibrant platforms on fact checking in the sub-region.

“We will do our utmost to ensure false claims, images and videos meant to mislead the public are fact-checked and verified,” Mr Mendy affirmed.

FactCheck Gambia will collaborate with all the major newsrooms across The Gambia to help amplify the culture of truth in public discourse, public policy, and journalistic practice. Through the collaboration, the media houses will share all verified and fact checked contents produced by FactCheck Gambia.