August 2019 – September 2020
Combating fake news during election season
In a global environment where digital technology is becoming increasingly more important, mass dissemination of fake news can be a destabilising factor for democracies. Access to diverse forms of reliable and independent information is synonymous with sustained rule of law.
August 2019 – September 2020
In September 2019, CFI launched Verifox Africa in partnership with the France 24 Observers, the fact-checking cell of France Médias Monde, to meet the needs expressed by its African partners (media outlets and influencers) to be better equipped to fight fake news, more specifically during election seasons, as they are turning points for democracy where access to verified information by the public is of the utmost importance.
In September 2019, after a call for applications sent to the media in Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Benin, 17 outlets (television, radio, written press and web) were selected for their editorial quality and motivation.
In November and December 2019, three national consultation forums were held in the capital cities of the target countries (Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Benin) to discuss the challenges of fighting fake news during election season. At each event, three days of workshops were held, bringing together national stakeholders from the information sector (media, influencers, civil society, policy and experts) as well as international fact checkers such as Africa Check, the France 24 Observers and Checknews.
During these well-attended talks (50 people in Ouagadougou, more than a hundred in Abidjan and 60 in Cotonou), journalists pondered the challenges surrounding the issue of the spread of fake news (fact checking, election season journalism, legal framework for fighting fake news, web giants: enemies or allies of the truth?, etc.).
“It is good that the circle of journalists and of media outlets is reflecting on the way in which they cover election campaigns through information verification. I think this will contribute to a calmer climate of public debate.” Philipe Di Nacera, journalist at 7info (Côte d’Ivoire)
The seminar held in Cotonou from 17 to 19 December brought together journalists and the Public Prosecutor of the Republic of Benin who came to talk about the legal framework for fake news in the country. The Prosecutor’s comments were tweeted by journalist Ignace Sossou of Benin Web TV. Following the publication of these tweets, the journalist was sentenced at first instance to 18 months in prison and a fine of 250,000 CFA francs for harassment via electronic means of communication.In this case, CFI is accused of having written and sent a letter to the Minister of Justice, which served as evidence for the arrest of the journalist. This letter did not go through the proper validation process. This was a serious internal failure. Internal measures (including a disciplinary procedure and a procedure for employee departure) aiming to avoid any risk of a repeat incident in future were taken.