Bringing fact-checking to Kenyan radio (PesaCheck)

November 05, 2018
A translation for this article is available in French

Fake news is a pervasive problem in Kenya, especially when it comes to potentially sensitive situations where facts are hard to come by. In situations like these, the information vacuum makes misinformation particularly damaging.

Prior to the 2017 election period, Portland Communications conducted a survey on fake news and misinformation in Kenya. The survey found that 90% of respondents had seen false or inaccurate information, and that 87% viewed this information as deliberately false.

Code for Kenya is an organization that trains radio journalists and newsrooms on verification and fact-checking in order to better support Kenyans, particularly those living in rural areas.

The organization worked with four radio stations in the period leading up to and following International Fact-Checking Day on April 2. This day comes right after April Fool’s Day, a time when all sorts of hoaxes abound, and essentially shifts the focus from pranks and fake stories to verification and fact-checking.

The first station to be trained was 98.4 Capital FM, which runs an SMS-based news alert service as well as an online newsroom, in addition to regular broadcasts. Capital FM had fallen prey to a fake poll that was distributed during the election period. The poll was part of an intricate misinformation scheme that involved a fake site designed to imitate the real website of Ipsos Synovate, a research and polling firm that regularly conducts surveys on public interest issues.

The second station involved in the training was 1FM, a commercial station based in Nairobi. The training addressed the work that the International Fact-Checking Network is doing to set standards for fact-checkers all over the world, as well as how individuals can build on the work of organizations such as PesaCheck to do their own fact-checking.

Two of the four stations involved with this fact-checking initiative are community-based: Ghetto FM, in Imara Daima, and Mtaani Radio, located in Kabiria in Dagoretti, part of Nairobi. Community stations tend to focus more strongly on local issues, which makes them better attuned to what local people are talking about. Therefore, the focus of their training was mainly on getting audiences to share their experiences with fake news. A number of callers cited examples of fake news they had come across.

According to Code for Kenya, by actively checking fake stories, including content such as videos and photos, and giving their audiences ways to check the stories themselves, community radio stations can fight fake news quite effectively.

Radio can be an effective platform for fact-checking. But, because of the speed at which information is shared and the level of trust the Kenyan public has in radio, it is also easy to spread misinformation via radio. Therefore, verification on radio needs to be two-way: broadcasters need to make sure that what they are broadcasting is accurate, and audiences need to learn how to check what they hear in order to make sure they’re not being duped.

Radio can be a real force for good. And in the fight against fake news and misinformation, a fast and widespread platform that provides citizens with credible, trustworthy information is an asset.

This Spotlight was adapted from an article written by Eric Mugendi, the managing editor of PesaCheck.org, and published on the organization’s blog. To read the full article, go to: https://pesacheck.org/bringing-fact-checking-to-kenyan-radio-with-fred-fact-3cdf0cfb1d15

Connect to fact-checkers in your area!

PesaCheck’s goal is to verify statements by public officials. The organization has chapters in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. “Pesa” means “money” in Swahili, emphasizing the importance of verifying statements by public officials, particularly those related to budgets and public finance.

PesaCheck has fact-checked a variety of public statements since 2017, including allocation of Kenya’s health care budget, the length of breastfeeding leave for mothers in Tanzania, the cause of rising maize prices in Tanzania, and the level of crowding in Ugandan jails compared to other countries.

The best-known fact-checking organization in Africa is Africa Check, with offices in Johannesburg, Nairobi, Lagos, Dakar, and London. Since 2012, Africa Check has fact-checked hundreds of claims on topics from crime and race in South Africa to population numbers in Nigeria and fake health cures in countries around Africa. The organization publishes fact-checks in English and French.

To learn more about Africa Check and view all of their reports, go to: https://africacheck.org/

ZimFact recently joined the fact-checking cause, launching in March 2018. The organization fact-checks a variety of public concerns, and notes that public trust in the media is declining in a country that is fiercely political. Zimbabwe has had 10 major nationwide elections in two decades, and held its latest national elections on July 30. ZimFact’s reports have included claims about the basic salaries of junior doctors and former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s pension.

To learn more about ZimFact, read this story from editor-in-chief Cris Chinaka: https://africacheck.org/2018/05/24/comment-the-long-journey-to-zimfact/