‘Why journalists need training on fact-checking’

Media practitioners from the southern and eastern part of the country were trained in Port Harcourt recently on fact-checking and proper reportage of events especially in an age when fake news abound. OKECHUKWU ONUEGBU was there and he reports.

As the world struggles to overcome the challenges of misinformation and disinformation, the International Press Centre (IPC) recently trained journalists in the South-east and South-south geopolitical zones of Nigeria with a view to empowering them to report responsibly. 

This is because journalism like every other profession is evolving with modern trends requiring new skills and capacities to solve emerging societal issues; hence, the practitioners were tasked with the responsiblities of attending relevant training and other opportunities to gain exposure, improve, fit in and succeed in the profession.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) for instance, has created myriads of opportunities for journalists to thrive in the industry while also posing challenges to the media existence and societal growth. But AI with its inherent innovation and opportunities seemed to be explored more by unscrupulous elements and opportunists with clear motives of creating crisis on the cyber space through the spread of fake news, misinformation, disinformation, maliformation, deepfakes and related issues.

To overcome all these and hold the government accountable, the International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos through the support of European Union (EU-SUPPORT) to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN II) component 4 organised a two-day capacity building workshop at Port Harcourt, Rivers State for journalists in the tw regions mentioned above in order to keep them abreast with modern trends in the profession.

The workshop, attended by over 40 journalists from across 11 States within the regions, was centred on combating information disorder in democratic governance reporting using fact-checking & Freedom of Information (FOI) tools. 

According to knowledge gained from the workshop, updating the knowledge of journalists of the provisions of FOI Act which was signed into law by the former President Goodluck Jonathan but appeared to be undertulised, would surely help to increase its utilisation, as well as promote good governance and democracy nationwide.

Setting the ball rolling

In reference to the communications officer, IPC, Ms Olutoyin Ayoade, the programme stand as a guiding light that could offer a way forward towards a more knowledgeable, discerning and robust media environment in this age characterised by the swift propagation of information.

She said, “The media plays a pivotal role in influencing public sentiment and upholding the integrity of electoral processes. Yet, amidst the vast expanse of information, combating misinformation, disinformation and propaganda poses a significant challenge. 

She also noted that, “The emergence of information disorder poses a grave threat to the very foundation of democratic governance, sowing seeds of doubt, division and distrust.

“The theme of the programme is ‘Credible Elections & Democratic Governance’ which underscores the fundamental principles upon which our societies are built. Free and fair elections lie at the heart of democracy, empowering citizens to exercise their rights, hold their leaders accountable and chart the course of their collective future. This initiative aims to prepare journalists to adeptly navigate the challenges of the digital era with a focus on responsibility and ethical practices,” she concluded.

The training proper

To further buttress the importance of the programme, the executive director (IPC), Mr Lanre Arogundade argued that fact-checking was imperative for investigative journalism, adding that every journalist armed with the skills would not only excel in the profession but easily gain exposures to various opportunities, including international organisations and lovers of good journalism.

Arogundade, who took journalists in the rudiments of fact checking using modern tools like Deeptrace, TinEye, Osintessentials and InVid, encouraged the media practitioners to unlearn bad habits, steorotype and bais. According to him, “Allowing the pictures in the heads to manifest in their reporting or information dissemination was unethical practices which could lead many to uprising, deaths, among others.

Another resource person and executive director, Media Rights Agenda, Mr Edetaen Ojo, hinted that the FOI Act helps to ensure transparency & accuracy in information dissemination, as well as reveals inconsistencies in public statements or reports issued by government officials or institutions.

Ojo further added that with the FOI request, every Nigerian, especially the journalists and civil society groups could easily find and exposed discrepancies, bring misrepresentation to light, confirm sources of data cited in public statements or reports and track changes in government policies. 

To him, journalists should obtain either the soft or hard copies of the FOI Act and its implementation strategies, study them in order to understand and apply them accordingly because it is useful in both pre and post-election reporting.

He also listed other investigative and research methodologies like survey gizmo, formstack, sogosurvey and crowdsignal that could assist journalists obtain relevant information so as to inform the public accurately.

“The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act is a tool that can enable regular access to information & data, which in turn, can assist a journalist in becoming a prolific reporter.

“The FOI Act is also an extremely valuable tool for journalists who want to fact-check information; conduct investigative reporting, and to hold the government as well as government officials and institutions accountable.

“The FOI Act enables individuals, including journalists, to request access to a wide range of government documents, records & information. You can therefore use the act to make requests for official documents, records, reports and other materials that may contain information that are relevant to the claims or statements that you want to fact-check,” he noted.

On her part, Dr Titilayo Osuagwu of the Department of Broadcasting in the Faculty of Communication and Media Studies, University of Port Harcourt, urged journalists to deepen the reportage of gender issues in any election in Nigeria.

Osuagwu, who observed that there are paucity of recognition of gender perspectives in elections and post elections reportage in Nigeria, stressed that it impedes genuine development in all spheres, increases inequality and slows down the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

She revealed that journalists could become gender justice advocates by interviewing women on political issues same way they interview men, apply gender sensitive languages in their reportage, promote women political participation, investigate and report accurately without showing bias to any gender on issues pertaining to women and  participation in governance.

“Men and women are actors/stakeholders in development. Fair gender portrayal is a professional and ethical aspiration. The media should be deliberative about balanced reporting by consciously reflecting the views of all, including women and girls. Through agenda setting, the media should ensure equal representation of women and men in the coverage of election beats.

“Apply the basic news elements 5Ws and 1H. Who are the people to be focussed on? What are the issues to be projected in different categories? Why should their issues merit reporting? Where will you find them as sources of news, when to report and how? Highlight positive examples of gender transformation.

“Report the successes and failures of gender equality programmes. Consult diverse sources, engage with organisations focussed on gender equality for a broad spectrum of views, offer comprehensive explanation of gender issues including causes and solutions, avoid gender stereotyping and challenge existing ones,” she added.


Some of the trainee/participants, including Mr Friday Peter from Bayelsa and Ms Chizoba Opara from Owerri, commended IPC for the training assuring their readiness to apply the knowledge gained in their journalism practices as they return to their various states of assignments.