Supporting a new culture of fact checking in Libya

Fake news are dangerous. They can threaten social stability and even endanger human lives. This was one of the main topics that a group of journalists from all over Libya discussed during a 10-day-training on the “Basics of Fact Checking” from August 24th to September 4th 2020. The course was jointly implemented by the Canadian Embassy in Libya and the Deutsche Welle Akademie (DWA) within the framework of its current EU-funded project “Media in Libya – Stability Through Reconciliation”.

“It was exciting and it really changed my way of thinking”, explains Moncef al Mansouri, one of the Libyan participants. “When I liked a post on Facebook I used to share it immediately. But this morning, for example, I was asking myself repeatedly: Should I really publish this instantly or should I maybe try to verify some of the information first?”

Originally, the course was planned as a face-to-face event in Tunis in spring. But then the Corona pandemic hit the region and travelling has become a serious challenge ever since. So both organisations involved decided to develop an online format without any compromises on the content. All major topics – from basic fact checking methods and source evaluation to state-of-the-art verification tools – were included in the online course and enough space was left for practical examples and interaction.

“It was not always easy”, Walid Dardiry, one of the two trainers conducting the course, admits. The team had to find pragmatic solutions how to deal with the frequent power cuts in Libya and the lack of personal exchange. “Instead of 5 full training days we decided to have 10 half days, for example. Also, we established a Whatsapp group where we could constantly exchange important information.”

Even though most participants agreed that the meeting personally has some unique characteristics that online communication just cannot provide, they even discovered some advantages of meeting virtually. “It’s comfortable because you don’t have to waste any time to reach the venue”, journalist al Mansouri says. His colleague Reem al Breiki agrees: “You can even participate in your own bedroom.” And she also articulates a wish to the organizers of the fact checking training: “We are already looking forward to more specialized courses on the topic!”

Author: Jan-Philipp Scholz