By Mustapha Ceesay
Gambian journalists and members of the Civil Society Organisations who benefitted from the training on combating the spread of fake news using fact checking hope to find the skill useful in their work.
The two-day event which was held at Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara International Conference Centre drew a lot of civil society actors and journalists from the print, electronic and online media in the country.
Muhammed S. Bah, Vice President of The Gambia Press Union and sub editor at Foroyaa Newspaper said he has learnt new fact checking tools and more on disinformation which will help him a lot in his work.
He said: “It will help me a lot. First, I will extend the knowledge to my reporters. It will indeed make them more conversant with the principles and the methodology of fact checking, which will minimise misinformation.”
Sally Jeng, a freelance journalist described the training as fruitful as well as an opportunity for her to distinguish fake news from authentic news.
“It’s an opportunity for me as a journalist to be able to distinguish fake news items from the actual story or reports, and anything I see or read, I can be able to apply the fact-checking method I’ve learned to be able to verify its authenticity. I’ve got to learn how people can use factual reports from credible media sources and manipulate it as a propaganda tool to disinform people to score political points or promote personal agenda,” Ms. Jeng said.
The objective of the session was to equip the participants with skills to identify and counter fake news, in order to control political narratives in Sub-Saharan Africa, which Sally has achieved.
Aside from the objective of the training, Sally has another take-home.
“Through the training, I am able to build a strong network with [members of] some civil society organisations, and I am looking forward to working with them in terms of access to information and other viable partnerships,” she said.
One of the members of the Civil Society Organisations who benefited from the capacity building was Yankuba Keita, Assistant Documentation and Information Officer, African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies [ACHDRS], a Pan African Civil Society who said the training is timely and interesting.
“The training came at a time when there are lots of fake news disseminating in our society, and the training has equipped us well to make fact checks on information and inform the public about the true source of the information. It was an interesting and interactive session which has built my capacity to detect fake news and disinformation; and the impact of disinformation in the area Gender,” said Keita.
Keita urged the government of The Gambia to engage CSOs and the media in sharing accurate information with the public.
Bah, Sally and Keita all promised to share with their colleagues the knowledge they gained from the training especially, at this time The Gambia is bracing up for elections.
It was organised by the Center for Research and Policy Development (CRPD) in The Gambia, in collaboration with Centre for Democracy and Development (DCD) in Nigeria.
Sait Matty Jaw, Executive Director of Center for Research and Policy Development (CRPD), expressed hope that the participants will use the knowledge to improve their work, detect and counter misinformation ahead of the December polls in The Gambian.
“We hope that the journalists and civil society members will use the training provided to help improve their work, and also ensure that they are able to detect and counter misinformation as we head to the 2021 Polls,” he expressed.
The training resulted in the formation of a CSO-media coalition to fact check contents in order to combat the spread of disinformation and misinformation in The Gambia and the Sub-region.