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The Guardian, ICIR, others collaborate to crosscheck facts, verify misinformation


Lolade Nwanze, Head, Guardian Digital (left); Ebele Oputa, Dubawa journalist; Pedro Noel, AFP Journalist. Photo: Twitter/CrossCheckNigeria

Preparatory to the 2019 general elections, some Nigerian media organisations have made a commitment tackle issues of misinformation under a new project tagged “CrossCheckNigeria”.

Indeed, the project which will be driven by selected media organisations, including The Guardian, is facilitated by First Draft, a United Kingdom organisation fighting misinformation globally, in collaboration with International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).

With the unveiling of the platform in Lagos, Wednesday, the project, which will be coordinated by the ICIR, an independent and non-profit news platform in Nigeria, hopes to improve the quality of information shared with the public as well as hold public officers accountable.

Already, about 46 journalists from the 15 selected media organisations, involving both the traditional and new media were gathered for a two-day boot camp training programme to improve their capacity on the project.

The Managing Director of First Draft, Jenni Sargent, while addressing participants said CrossCheck Nigeria would also help to debunk misinformation and fake news and sanitise the media space in the run-up to coming Nigeria’s general elections.

Having deployed the technology in France and Brazil, Sargent urged journalists to collaborate in debunking misinformation, especially in the face of media manipulations.

Sargent said, the boot camp was designed to teach the participants about the new verification technology to be deployed for the project, and how to work in the media coalition, adding that the project will help the public to understand not only what to trust, but also why to trust a particular information.

Also, the Executive Director of ICIR, Dayo Aiyetan, who expressed concern about the “weaponisation of information” by political actors, challenged the media on the responsibility of verifying information being churned out on social media and other platforms.

“Journalists need to learn the skills to verify and fact-check such misinformation and debunk them before they mislead people or cause harm,” Aiyetan said.

The ICIR boss explained that under the project, the participating organisations would work together in disproving fake news or misinformation by going beyond the traditional practice of fact-checking and deploying technology to check the authenticity of claims.

On his part, chairman of The Guardian editorial board, Martins Oloja, noted that the collaboration is timely and will help the country address the challenges in the media industry, especially at a time when trust in the media is waning and operators are losing business.

He added that the media business is customer-centric and operators cannot afford to lose credibility and business at a time operational challenges are taking its toll on the business.

Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Kehinde Bamigbetan, charged journalists to always be responsible for spreading facts irrespective of the contexts of the report.

The Publisher of Niche newspaper, Ikechukwu Amaechi, stressed the need for value to be added to contents as well as the promotion of investigative journalism practice.

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