First African fact checking site launched, developed by AFP

Africa’s first fact checking website, developed by the Agence France Presse (AFP) Foundation, was revealed on Wednesday, aiming to hold leadership and media accountable for their facts.

Africa Check was launched at the Power Reporting conference at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

“The website is Africa’s first website dedicated to fact checking, to promoting ideas of verification and accuracy in the public debate,” Anton Harber, Caxton head of the Journalism Department at Wits, told News24.

Africa Check has recently started operating from the Wits Department of Journalism in Johannesburg as a non-profit organisation. The aim is to hold leadership and media accountable for their ‘facts’. South African journalists are encouraged to contribute so that an interactive network can be established. They are also planning to expand to the rest of the continent soon.

“For any society to function properly, people need access to reliable information and that includes Africa,” Peter Cunliff-Jones, deputy director of the AFP Foundation, told SA Timeslive. “Whether the claims people make are about health, politics or the economy, they should be checked properly and impartially.”

“We will quite simply follow things that are said in the public arena by politicians or by other media or by experts, and where we think they need checking, we will verify them and we will publish what we find, to say this was true, this was not true, or it was disputed and here’s how you understand the nature of that dispute,” Harber said.

Editor Ruth Becker, an experienced journalist in using technology and social media for spreading information, is leading the online publication. The rest of the editorial team consists of Peter Cunliff-Jones as director, researcher Ntombenkosi Dyosop and a board of five members, as well as Anton Harber as senior advisor.

Although they are subject to donations in general, the IPI News Innovation Contest funds the site until the end of 2012. The contest was initiated by the International Press Institute in Vienna, Austria.

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