Africa Check is a fact checking organization based in the journalism department at Wits University.  It was established in 2012 and has branches in Kenya, Senegal, South Africa.  It also provides fact checking training for journalists.

Fact checking has been in existence for ten years as an industry independent of journalism. Africa Check’s Kate Wilkinson, says it is useful to identify and differentiate between a fact and an opinion. A fact according to Wilkinson can be verified, but opinion is difficult to verify because it is rooted in belief.

Africa Check has partnered with two radio partners 702 and Power FM, and this partnership allows them to make their content more accessible, helps the radio station with their fact checking. For example, they recently debunked inaccurate statistics suggesting that South African’s white population is poor.

In a recent radio interview, City of Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba was reported making a statement that a minimum of 80% people in hijacked city buildings are foreign nationals.  Wilkinson says statements like these should be probed by requiring information from the person making the statement.

  • How sure are you about those statistics?
  • Where did you get these statistics?
  • Interrogate the content?
  • What year is it from?
  • How do you know this information?
  • Can you come back on air tomorrow to explain how you reached that conclusion?

A fact checking tool which is recommended for checking demographics which Africa Check uses is WaziMaps. Wilkinson adds that it is in this fact checking process that one can deduce whether a statement is true or not. She also recommends creating an information resource library which is useful in keeping track of the facts and will come in handy in the future to compare the claims and analyze their validity and accuracy.

Here are the five steps to fact checking

  1. Identify the source- where was the information sourced
  2. Follow the trail- trace where the information was first released, then follow the trail to find the source
  3. Verify the content- cross examine the facts using various reliable and trustworthy sources
  4. Check the context- never accuse the person of being wrong, because it also depend on that person’s intent and other things like being misquoted or misinterpreted
  5. Ask the experts- Experts are key in putting things into perspective and within context

Lastly Wilkinson says there is an appetite for fact checking nowadays and encourages taking the role of cross examining whatever information that is brought in your direction before sharing it, more especially for those who are  in the media space.

Lebohang Bridget Lepere

(Edited by Simbarashe Honde)