Cohort 8 Fellows in a group photo
By Andrew Nsoseka
Introduced in Cameroon in January 2020, the Africa Fact-checking Fellowship, operating under the Defyhatenow initiative of Civic Watch, has continually spread its roots and bettered the experience and professionalism of journalists and other information handlers.
Born from a zeal to take personal and collective responsibility by being watchful of speech, both online and offline, the Civic Watch initiative has trained several cohorts of information handlers, and managers, in a bid to bring sanity to society and reduce conflicts, which often result from offensive and hate speech.
“Through the Africa Fact-checking Fellowship, we are trying to educate citizens on the need to be watchful of how we use social media platforms, of how we use digital platforms. We targeted journalists and bloggers from the beginning because we know that they have a huge readership. They have followers and they have viewers who are always glued to their screens or to their papers to hear from them,” said Laure Nganlay, Communication Manager for defyhatenow Cameroon.
She further noted that the fellowship, which has just ended its Cohort 8, has improved the quality of journalism and information handling professionalism of the fellowship’s various trainees.
“Many of these Fellows give us feedback that they have improved the quality of reports that they produce. There are some who even used to use pictures without crediting, there are some who used to receive pictures on the internet and just use them without knowing which is fake and which is real. Today, they are able to educate their audiences through the skills they received,” she said.
On the general effect, Laure said it has been observed that many more people are becoming conscious of hate speech and that its use is gradually reducing in society. She testified that trainees of the Fellowship are now actively engaged in the fight against hate speech, the spreading of fake news and other vices that were becoming a call for concern. She noted that the Fellows go back to their communities and train more people on the vices and as the ripple effect spreads, a lot of people are becoming more aware. Laure said they are glad to see several of their trainees fronting campaigns for saner communities through the fight against hate speech and fake news.
She said four of their fellows were among some 10 selected persons by the US Embassy in Cameroon who travelled to the US in April 2023.
Cohort 8 Fellow, Ntemgwa Ngufack, a Freelance multimedia Journalist said thanks to the training “the number of fact-checking that I have been able to do has increased and the quality of the work that I do has increased”.
He says some aspects of responsible journalism he did not do before joining the fellowship, are now part and parcel of his practice.
Chanceline Chanze, a Journalist CRTV journalist working at its West regional bureau says, she has teamed up with two other colleagues to do more fact-checking on stories they report. “We are going to help each other to be able to identify topics that are fact-checkable and also going to help each other to ensure that we can write these fact-checking articles together because the truth is that, one person might be stronger than the other so our strategy is pulling one another and then growing together,” she said.