“At a time when online media is flooded with misleading information, we see how facts are sometimes difficult to come by. During such periods, the traditional media has to step in and pull ahead. Fact-checking is already part of the duties of any journalist, but providing readers with additional fact-checking services to verify information circulating online becomes a valuable service and can make a difference, notably in times of pandemic,” said Kultigin Akbulut from Platform 24 (P24).
Within the EU-funded project “Building Trust in Media in South East Europe and Turkey- Phase 2,” UNESCO has partnered with P24, a local organization promoting journalistic editorial independence in Turkey, to organize training workshops to engage journalists, academics and civil society with the objective of developing new fact-checking initiatives in the country.
Four digital training seminars were held between the end of October and throughout November 2020, replacing the two initially planned in-person events. The seminars were organized together with the fact-checking organisation Teyit, a member of the International Fact-checking Network. Proof of the importance and interest for the technics of fact-checking, the seminars had a much larger number of registrations than expected, with more than 130 applicants. The number of participants for each digital training was, however, limited to 30 participants to ensure active participation and dialogue. More sessions will be offered in 2021.
The first training sessions at the end of October 2020 took place right during the earthquake that hit the Aegean region. “The media coverage and information circulating online about the earthquake was a practical live exercise for the participants. The trainees could observe the dissemination of misinformation about the earthquake and learn technics to address it,” Kultigin added.
“We have learned from these fact-checking seminars that these technics are not only fundamental for the public and for ensuring that online disinformation is countered by verified facts. It also protects journalists and their work, making them resilient to external risks and allowing them to inform the public most diligently,” concluded Kutigin from P24.
The training workshops have been preceded by needs-assessment interviews with participants. To understand their needs and policies in dealing with false information and fact-checking, P24 interviewed 20 editors and editors-in-chief of both printed and online media and is currently conducting feedback interviews. An online module on Fact-Checking in Reporting about Public Health will be created based on the lessons of these workshops and by the end of the project as part of the P24 Akademi, the organisation’s digital learning scheme.
UNESCO and the European Union, DG Near, launched the second phase of the project Building Trust in Media in South East Europe and Turkey in November 2019. In consideration of the clear decline in the civil society’s trust in media in the region and the recommendations from the European Union in combating disinformation online, the three-year project aims to support free, independent and pluralistic media, while empowering citizens to think critically about the information they receive through the media, especially social media.