The Center for Media Studies & peacebuilding (CEMESP) with support from the British Embassy is providing capacity building training for journalists in research and fact-checking on information surrounding the COVID-19 virus.
CEMESP’s two-day training held under the theme; “Building the capacity of Journalists to stand above Coronavirus fake news dissemination in Liberia,” brought together media practitioners from both print and electronic institutions across Monrovia.
The ongoing workshop is the final of the third phase of training for Liberia Journalists in understanding fake news around the COVID-19 virus. The first and second phrases of the training took place in Nimba and Grand Bassa Counties, bringing together 40 local journalists from various community radio stations to build their abilities in fact checking.
Journalist and Media Trainer, Frank Sainworla, serves as lead facilitator and is assisted by Klonieous Blamo.
Giving an overview of the training, Malcolm Joseph, CEMESP Executive Director, told participating journalists that the training seeks to promote information dissemination and integrity around COVID-19 to enhance media professionalism that negates fake news.
Joseph said the training is intended to improve the quality of COVID-19 reporting including best practices in health reporting, the media response to rumors and misinformation on the pandemic fact-checking, and ethical principles for journalism practice in Liberia.
He said, “With the expertise of media trainer, I can guarantee that the two days of training will be rewarding.”
Joseph disclosed that the second phase of the project deals with monitoring the COVID-19 reportage of all the sixty trained journalists, stressing that it will concluded a forum will see the honoring and certification of reporters who have reported exceptionally well observing balanced and accurate information on COVID-19.
Mr. Sainworla during his power-point presentation urged journalists to create a level playing field to enable a balanced, clear, and factual information dissemination in the media landscape.
He said the issue of fake news is not restricted only to the COVID-19, but also to political ownership, personal interest, and the lack of proper investigation and failure to speaking to creditable sources in reporting a particular story.
Sainworla said there are challenges in combating fake news stories because misinformation spreads very faster.
He urged reporters to be very careful when dealing with fake news because it has the ability to instigate tension.
Sainworlda further told journalists to rebuild the bridge between journalism and society by showing readers how news is reported, why it is published, the background of the story, which company finances the news organization, and much other information.
He said the most important asset of journalism is credibility, calling on reporters not to succumb to “Declaratory professionalism.”
He said a journalist needs to translate clearly and objectively the news even if the real-time coverage demands speed over substance, making sure that the information contains context, analytical efforts, as well as many qualified sources as possible.
“Politicians have nothing to lose, they are not stable and they act according to the time and season, but journalists should be careful in dealing with politicians and do more fact checking before publishing a professional news story,” he said.
Sainworla said “Our job as a journalist is not only to inform or educate but constant engagement.”
CEMESP has the mission to promote democratic tenets through free media, freedom of expression, peace consolidation participatory governance.