Fact-Checking Site Challenges Media, Leaders in South Africa

Fact-Checking Site Challenges Media, Leaders in South Africa

Media outlets and journalists across Africa are often victims of scrutiny — and punishment when it comes to publishing stories about conflict, government, officials and supposed facts. Now, a new site, Africa Check is helping citizens and media outlets move toward promoting truth by trumping questionable statements, Voice of America reported.

Upon taking a quick glace at Africa Check’s front page, one will find handy fact sheets, articles calling out journalists and headlines questioning recycled statistics. The Policies and Promises of Zanu-PF and the Movement of Democratic Change fact sheet used BBC and Zimstat as sources to reveal key facts such as Zimbabwe’s population (12.9 million) and the number of election observers (600).

In the same article researchers pulled from the Movement for Democratic Change’s election manifesto booklet outlining areas that covered land, housing, financial and economic affairs and food security.

“The MDC promises a ‘fair and equitable land policy to cultivate an efficient, just and people-driven agro-economy.’ To do this, the party says it will ensure equitable access to land for all, provide security of tenure to all land-owners, restore title deeds, establish a Land Commission in terms of the constitution, enforce a ‘one household, one farm policy,’ ensure access to credit for farmers, provide full and adequate compensation for land acquisition and enforce a viable land tax system,” Africa Check wrote of MDC’s officials statements regarding land.

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Voice of America reported that Witswaterand’s journalism department and the Agence France Press Foundation formed a partnership to launch Africa Check in 2012 — the first South African publication dedicated to fact-checking.

“I think the fundamental element of our work is that we are trying to get people to question what they’re told, what they read, what politicians say to them, and to look at the information that is there and ask essentially what the fundamental question is ‘Where is the evidence?’ If someone makes a claim, where is the evidence to support that claim, and to actually interrogate those claims and not to accept things purely for what they are,” Julian Rademeyer, Africa Check editor said.

Rademeyer and one other researcher contributes to the site full-time. Content is also supported by a team of freelance writers and researches who take on assignments and follow the model of similar sites Politifact and Factcheck.org, according to Voice of America.

Though Africa Check is not as widely known as operators would like it to be, debunked ideals have proven to be something the country’s readers appreciate. Former Star Newspaper editor Paula Fray believes the site’s mission will help both the people and the journalism industry.

“I’m hoping that eventually journalists will be writing their stories and thinking if my news editor doesn’t pick up that something hasn’t been verified, Africa Check might pick up that it hasn’t been verified — so I’m not going to put anything in my stories unless I can prove it, Fray told Voice of America.