The media plays a crucial role in ensuring that electoral processes are credible, and that elections are held in a free, fair and transparent manner.
The media provides a platform to various electoral stakeholders and to the public to fully participate in the electoral process.
We know that the media’s role in elections as an observer or watchdog includes providing timely, accurate, and relevant information, and by educating the public.
It is also important that while doing this, the media holds various electoral stakeholders to account, including the electoral body, and political parties and candidates.
For this reason, fact-checking becomes a crucial exercise that lends clarity to the significant volume of information that is shared by various stakeholders, especially politicians, before, during and after the elections.
Fact-checking is a part of everyday journalism, but it is even more important that this culture of verification is entrenched during elections. Misinformation and disinformation (or fake news) come in many forms, and it is important for journalists to identify and debunk them.
Fact-checking in elections should not only be limited to what the political candidates say, but also deliberate attempts by their supporters and other groups or individuals to mislead or manipulate the people must be checked.
The Gambia Press Union is glad to be associated with this three-day training on fact-checking for journalists organised by UNESCO.
We recognised the need to empower journalists with the requisite skills, tools and resources to counter the amount of misinformation and disinformation that comes with the conduct of elections.
The GPU also recognised that misinformation and disinformation is becoming a norm in our national political discourse especially on social media platforms.
We are committed to building the capacity of journalists on fact-checking.
That is why in May this year we had a two-day training for 20 journalists on Fact-checking in Elections through our Media Academy for Journalism and Communication (MAJaC). That training was conducted in partnership with Africa Check, a leading independent fact-checking organisation based in South Africa.
MAJaC is also partnering with Nigeria’s Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism through their fact-checking project, Dubawa, to roll out a one-day training for staff and students on Misinformation Literacy and Fact-checking to be held on the 5th of August, 2021.
And from the first week of August, the GPU in partnership with Premium Times’ Dubawa Project will conduct a three-day training on fact-checking for 15 journalists.
The training is inspired by the need to equip journalists and other media professionals with the needed skills to combat information disorder (a.k.a fake news).
From this year through 2023, the GPU and MAJaC plans to intensify such collaborations with our partners to provide knowledge, skills and resources to several journalists (including reporters and editors) who would be involved in reporting and editing stories related to the presidential, parliamentary and local government elections.
Our fact-checking trainings are in response to the upsurge in information disorder which poses a damaging challenge to public policymaking, communal harmony and media credibility.
And we look forward to collaborating with more partners including UNESCO in these and other areas of capacity building for journalists.
For this particular training that is opening today, we commend UNESCO as a long-time partner of the GPU for coming up with a very timely and relevant training on fact-checking.
I would like to conclude by urging the participants to give maximum attention to this important training and fully partake in the exercises to be conducted during the course of the training.
Paying attention and taking part in practical exercises is the best way to learn and to be able to implement what you have learned when you return to your various media houses.
With this, I thank you all for your kind attention.