Spreading fact checking bug among community radios in Kenya

The scope of media and channels of dissemination of information have really diversified and evolved in the 21st century. The current age has has been characterized by proliferation  as well as digitization that has phased out the de-facto information monopoly of traditional media. These range from social media, podcasts, vlogs, internet protocol TVs and many more.

Even as we enjoy this trajections, it’s good to note that the same have tagged along some demerits especially with regards with credibility of information relayed. For the longest time dissemination of unverified information has been affecting and really damaging the reputation of both journalists and the media outlets they represent but the trend is on the increase in the digital age as opposed to the traditional analog era. In a recent report by Media Council Of Kenya, radios are on the spotlight as one of the sources of fake news and unverified content at 28% trailing closely behind social media at 36%. The numbers of radio stations in Kenya have rapidly increased. Community radios alone stand at about 40, and cumulatively close to 93 factoring in the mainstream ones.

KCOMNET in partnership with Pesacheck as a result of this has integrated fact-checking and verification of information in the 2019 in-house community radio content production trainings targeting Nairobi, Migori, Siaya, Isiolo and Turkana counties. The fact check component aims at equipping and enhancing the techniques of community journalists operating in the above areas in distinguishing between fake news, misinformation, disinformation and mal-information while executing their duties.

One of the biggest underlying factors that contributes to the vulnerability of community radios to pitfalls of fake news and one that stood out in the first three trainings is the aspect of dependency on secondary sources of information especially from social media like Facebook as well as blogs and mainstream media websites.

Inefficient fact-checking techniques and skills sometimes lead to dissemination of unverified information which end up being taken as the gospel truth by the community audience especially those subjected to gullibility due to low media literacy knowledge. A participant during one of the trainings admitted to having fallen victim to a story she saw on her Facebook wall only to be alerted by fellow colleague that it was a hoax minutes before it was forwarded to the editor. Through these trainings, it is expected that community radio broadcasters shall be able to backtrack and redeem the status of credible information agents.