It was rich pickings for West African journalism at the sixth annual African Fact-Checking Awards held at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Announced at the 29 October 2019 ceremony, the winners and runners-up in both categories all hail from Nigeria and Senegal.
Nigerian journalist Odinaka Anudu took home the night's flagship award for his investigative work published in the Business Day newspaper in Nigeria, “Ongoing projects in South East: Truth vs Lies”.
Anudu received the Fact-check of the Year by a Working Journalist award in absentia as he was unable to attend the ceremony held at the 2019 African Investigative Journalism Conference. Investigative journalist Taiwo Adebulu from the Nigerian independent publication The Cable received the award on his behalf.
Fellow Nigerian journalist, Oluwamayowa Tijana, from AFP Fact Check Nigeria, was the runner-up in the category. His fact-check focused on Nigeria's doctor shortage.
Anudu took home US$2,000 while Tijana was awarded a cash prize of $1,000.
Student journalist category
Journalism student Souleymane Diassy was awarded for the Fact-check of the Year by a Student for “Santé : Kolda a-t-elle le plus grand ratio de mortalité maternelle au Sénégal ?” (Health: Does Kolda have the highest maternal mortality rate in Senegal?), an article published on his blog.
A student at the Centre d’Etudes des Sciences et Techniques de l’Information (CESTI) journalism school in Dakar, Senegal, Diassy is an avid fact-checker. Dienyaba Thiombane, a fellow student at CESTI, was the runner-up in the student category.
Diassy and Thiombane were awarded $1,000 and $500 respectively.
Africa Check executive director Noko Makgato said fact-checking is a vital element of journalism in Africa.
“We operate in countries where information is not freely available. When it is available, it is of a questionable quality prone to influence the citizenry. We need citizens to be recipients of verified, quality information so they can make informed decisions about their lives.”
More journalists taking up fact-checking
Makgato added: “The objective of the awards is to encourage journalists to engage in fact-checking, a sorely needed key element of journalism missing in Africa. We are hoping to develop this further with more journalists taking up fact-checking.”
Associate professor at the University of Mauritius, Roukaya Kasenally, who headed the judging panel, said the judges sought out groundbreaking work that does not always make the headlines.
“We were looking for stories that matter and touched lives; stories that had an in-depth analysis where the journalist used a gamut of techniques to dig through the information to get the story,” she said.
Kasenally, who is also the CEO of the Africa Media Initiative, noted the growing output of fact-checking from French-speaking countries.
“The spread of the submissions from both Anglophone and Francophone countries shows fact-checking cuts across the continent as a fundamental technique,” she added.