Facts and Lies about Africa: A Matter of Life and Death

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All across the length and breadth of Africa, people make decisions, big and small, every day. To do this, they have to rely on the best information that is publicly available. But often the information in the mainstream media, public discussions and social media is partial, misleading or just plain wrong. Misleading claims about minority populations, replayed in the traditional and social media, have led to everything from xenophobic attacks in South Africa in 2015 to the Rwandan genocide of 1994. False media reports into health problems, such as polio, and supposed cures for diseases from HIV/AIDS to Ebola, have caused unnecessary sickness and death across the continent.

It was to start to tackle this problem that the continent’s first independent fact-checking website, www.africacheck.org, was set up in partnership with the Journalism Department of University of the Witwatersrand, in South Africa, in 2012, with a French-language version set up in partnership with the EJICOM journalism school in Dakar, Senegal, in 2015.

The role of Africa Check in promoting fact-checking journalism was the topic of a debate that took place on 19 October at the Institute of Advanced Studies run by the University of Westminster in London. Dr Winston Mano, Director of the Africa Media Centre, and Peter Cunliffe-Jones, Executive Director of Africa Check discussed the impact that the misrepresentations that take place have on the continent and what journalists around Africa can do to tackle this. Cunliffe-Jones explained the way Africa Check is seeking partners around Africa interesting in spreading this vital new form of journalism. He also discussed the growth in interest in the African Fact-Checking Awards which Africa Check now runs, and which saw record entries this year. French- and English-language winners of the awards are due to be announced at AMI’s Reporting Africa conference in Nairobi on 8 December.

For more information on Africa Check visit the website or email: info@africacheck.org.

 

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