Africa Check exists to promote accuracy in public debate and the media in Africa.
In a continent that is home to 55 countries, tens of thousands of media houses, hundreds of thousands of competing organisations, and several hundred million people, it is never going to be possible – or desirable – for one organisation to set itself up to fact-check every claim made.
Happily for our small staff team of three, plus a growing group of freelance researchers, that is not our aim.
We do indeed seek to check the evidence behind some of the important claims that are made in public. But, as this cartoon suggests, nobody can do everything.
So our broader goal is to encourage others to check claims that are made too.
The sceptical reflex
Busy as people tend to be these days, it is often easier – for a journalist, a researcher, a public servant, or a businesswoman – to take a claim that is made in public as given. In the course of our work to date, we have seen this done by allies in the media, by the courts, and by the public at large.
This is unfortunate, as it allows those who would, wittingly or otherwise, mislead us all to do so with relative impunity.
It is important in fighting against this not to give in to cynicism. Just because some politicians, some media houses, some businesses and others seek to mislead, it does not mean they do all. And because one does on one issue, it does not mean they are, necessarily, doing so on another one.
Instead, of cynicism, what we hope to generate is open-minded scepticism. Whether you are a judge or a journalist, a businesswoman or a health worker, to question – not dismiss – the claims that are made, until reliable, verifiable evidence is shown to back up the claim.
What to ask
In order to produce the reports we run on this site, we have used our own experience as journalists, and the help and assistance of specialist experts in a range of fields, to draw up some tips and advice on how to fact-checking, starting with the key questions.
Where is the evidence? Is the evidence verifiable? And is the evidence sound?
How was the information gathered? When? By whom? What biases should the journalist, judge or businesswoman look out for in how the information is collected and reported. These are all topics we attempt to address in our ‘Tips and advice’ page.
Where to look
This is why, starting in 2013 and continuing in 2014, we hope to build up a library of guides and factsheets for you to use, if visiting this website, as sources of reliable data on key questions.
And it is why we hope to provide in our ‘Resources’ link, a searchable guide to the data sources we have found most useful in our work to date.
Africa Check is not and cannot, of course, be responsible for the accuracy of the data in all these sources. They are third parties, and obviously we cannot and will not vouch for their accuracy on every issue. Besides, judgements about what data is accurate and what inaccurate are rarely simple, but coloured in various shades of grey.
This is why we hope that, even if they are useful, as you set about checking the claims people make, you maintain your sceptical reflexes when assessing the accuracy of the data these sources too provide.
Thanks and good luck – The Africa Check team