The Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) has launched Fake Watch Africa with a call for the media to report responsibly during the elections and avoid fake news which can cause voter apathy.
Speaking in an interview during the launch on Wednesday in Blantyre, IWPR consultant Andres Ilves said traditional media must always strive to verify facts before reporting on issues, mainly those which circulate on social media.
Fake Watch Africa is a Facebook and Twitter tool which people can use to check facts in stories for authenticity by simply going on their pages.
Ilves said if not handled well, fake news has the potential to cause disruptions in an electoral period and is a big problem not only in Malawi but the world over.
He said: “Traditional media will always be that—traditional. So, it needs to stay responsible and keep on reporting news with multiple sources to be accurate, fair and credible.”
In her remarks, IWPR programme manager Cheu Mita said they have so far trained 169 journalists from various media houses nationwide on how to write election stories.
On the issue of elections and fake stories, she said they are trying to help people make informed choices when voting and remove perceptions they may have on candidates through fake stories that have been on social media from the onset of the campaign period.
Said Mita: “We have had stories in the past that can lead one to either vote or not so we want, when people go to vote, they should really know the truth.”
Currently, IWPR is working with 11 journalists who have been monitoring fake news on social media from last week and will be establishing facts to those fake stories and publishing them.
During the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) dry run tests of the results management system, commissioner responsible for electoral services Jean Mathanga expressed worry over the tendency by some candidates to peddle lies that have potential to affect voter turnout.
She urged both candidates and political parties to avoid spreading any news that is not verified with the commission for a peaceful voting period.