Sev­eral Arab ini­tia­tives to tackle mis­in­for­ma­tion at fo­rum


The Daily News Egypt - - IN-FOCUS - By Fatma Lotfi

As Mid­dle East­ern coun­tries have weath­ered civil wars, con­flicts, and po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity, ev­ery news story has had two, if not more, nar­ra­tives. On what is true or fake, Le­banon, Jor­dan, Egypt, and Iraq launched projects and ini­tia­tives over the past years to counter fake and fab­ri­cated news, run by jour­nal­ists, blog­gers, and vol­un­teers. At Alexan­dria Me­dia Fo­rum, held from 15-17 April 2018 at Egyp­tJa­pan Univer­sity of Science and Tech­nol­ogy in Borg El-Arab, Alexan­dria, all the projects’ rep­re­sen­ta­tives pro­vided more de­tails about their work.

“We are not jour­nal­ists,” noted Mo­hamed Has­sanein, of “Da Be­gad” (Is It True?), an Egyp­tian ini­tia­tive run by seven young vol­un­teers. Has­sanein, a 22-year-old engi­neer­ing stu­dent at Hel­wan Univer­sity, said that the team in­cludes doc­tors, en­gi­neers, and oth­ers who work in dif­fer­ent fields.“It was launched in 2013 by Hany Bah­gat, who works in the dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing field, as he no­ticed how fake news flooded so­cial me­dia fol­low­ing the 25 Jan­uary 2011 rev­o­lu­tion,” Has­sanein said.

How­ever, he joined the team be­cause he was a big fan of their work. “They were re­quest­ing new mem­bers, pro­vid­ing a quiz to those in­ter­ested in join­ing them,” said Has­sanein, adding that the job re­quired re­search and fact-check­ing skills.

He said that their Face­book page has more than 1 mil­lion fol­low­ers, and their Twit­ter page has 14,000. “We build cred­i­bil­ity with our au­di­ence who trust us, as we pro­vide all our posts with of­fi­cial, doc­u­mented sources. How­ever, we face some re­jec­tion from users, as posts op­pose their own be­liefs or opin­ions.”

The Da Be­gad team co­or­di­nate on­line and or­gan­ise their work through a com­fort­able schedule as they all have their own jobs.“We re­view all news, care­fully check it, then pub­lish on so­cial me­dia chan­nels and our web­site,” noted Has­sanein, adding that they be­lieve in what they do, even though it is not a paid job.

Mean­while,“Akhbar Me­tre” (News Me­tre) is an­other Egyp­tian project, the main mis­sion of which is to fight fake news.Their bio reads:“the project aims at assess­ing and eval­u­at­ing the pro­fes­sion­al­ism and truth­ful­ness of Egyp­tian news that are shared on­line and pro­mote a crit­i­cal mind­set among me­dia con­sumers. Our goal is to put pres­sure on for­mal me­dia chan­nels on­line to com­mit to eth­i­cal and pro­fes­sional frame­works in news pro­duc­tion, to avoid us­ing ma­nip­u­la­tive tech­niques in their news, and to stop shar­ing false news.”

Noure­hane Saif Eldin, a jour­nal­ist and one of the project’s mem­bers, said,“our main purpose is to aca­dem­i­cally mon­i­tor and check news on me­dia web­sites then eval­u­ate it in term of pro­fes­sional,ob­jec­tive re­port­ing.” She added that peo­ple have the right to re­ceive true news.“It’s a hu­man right,” noted Saif Eldin.

The team is com­prised of six mem­bers, ac­cord­ing to Saif Eldin, in­clud­ing jour­nal­ists, so­cial me­dia spe­cial­ists, video ed­i­tors, and the founder, Haytham Atef.“We don’t just fo­cus on neg­a­tives acts,when there is pos­i­tive,pro­fes­sional re­port­ing,we high­light it,” Saif Eldin said.

In Iraq, From 2013 to 2016, three projects were launched on so­cial me­dia:Fake­postspage,Peace Blog­gers,and Tech for Peace, as a re­sult of fake news that flour­ished due to con­flicts and the rise of the Is­lamic State group in the coun­try. “Young peo­ple feel obliged to main­tain so­ci­etal peace,” said Muhan­nad Mun­jed Hameed, an Iraqi blog­ger and fact-check­ing trainer. “I feel obliged to do some­thing to­wards fake news, as a main re­spon­si­bil­ity,” he said, adding that “fab­ri­cated news has a neg­a­tive ef­fect on so­ci­ety and na­tional unity. It leads to com­mu­nal vi­o­lence and dis­sem­i­na­tion of hate.”

Hameed started his pro­fes­sion as a fact-check­ing trainer with Iraqi Net­work for So­cial Me­dia (INSM) and Me­dia in Co­op­er­a­tion and Tran­si­tion (MICT), as well as other in­ter­na­tional in­sti­tu­tions, with the aim of train­ing young peo­ple on how to fact-check news, start­ing first with me­dia per­son­nel, ac­tivists, and then univer­sity and high schools stu­dents.

“We train peo­ple to spread the culture of fact-check­ing in their work­places and com­mu­ni­ties,” noted the 28-year-old blog­ger, adding that most work­ers at the three afore­men­tioned projects are univer­sity stu­dents and blog­gers, not jour­nal­ists.

More­over, the Le­banese news­pa­per An­na­har launched five months ago a project led by jour­nal­ists and re­porters to com­bat fake news. “At first, we launched a Face­book page en­ti­tled ‘Le­’, and pub­lished three pieces of news with catchy head­lines to at­tract read­ers, but ac­tu­ally, the news did not con­tain any real news. How­ever, it was a mes­sage from the news­pa­per to read­ers to say to them, ‘do not open any source, be­lieve, or share any­thing with­out ver­i­fy­ing it,’” said Diana Skaini, head of dig­i­tal con­tent at An­na­har.

This page was just the be­gin­ning for the Le­banese news­pa­per, part of a larger cam­paign to counter fake news and ru­mours.“The cam­paign is named “An­na­har, what you read, not what you see”, which means “read­ing news in depth,” ex­plained Skaini, not­ing, “Arab so­ci­eties need truth and true information, peo­ple need to un­der­stand what is go­ing on in the world; cred­i­ble and trusted information, not catchy head­lines or fab­ri­cated news.”

Mean­while,An­na­har launched a sec­tion en­ti­tled “An­na­har coun­ters fake news”,through which it com­mu­ni­cates with re­porters in the most sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­na­tional me­dia, such as the BBC, Le Monde, and Le Parisien, which have sec­tions of jour­nal­ists to fact-check news. “Each or­gan­i­sa­tion has its sec­tion of seven spe­cialised jour­nal­ists to only fact-check news,” Skaini pointed out, not­ing that Arab me­dia out­lets do not have such de­part­ments.

“This is be­cause they don’t know how to do that or the tools they need, and of course, it would not be easy to have seven jour­nal­ists only for fact-check­ing; it would be a fi­nan­cial bur­den on any me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tion,” she said. How­ever, she noted that it is never too late to get on the right track to im­ple­ment­ing in­ter­na­tional prac­tices.“We can ben­e­fit from in­ter­na­tional me­dia ex­pe­ri­ences,” she said.

On the other hand, Jor­dan has taken the mis­sion through an aca­demic ap­proach, with the Jor­dan Me­dia In­sti­tute cre­at­ing a project on me­dia and information ed­u­ca­tion.“We of­fer train­ings and aca­demic pro­grammes to school and univer­sity stu­dents in or­der to teach them doubt­ing skills be­fore shar­ing any­thing on­line,” said Anoud Al Zoubi, a Jor­da­nian com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sional, fact-check­ing trainer, and TV and ra­dio pro­ducer.

On so­cial me­dia, the in­sti­tute launched “,” a Face­book page to mon­i­tor news pub­lished in Jor­da­nian me­dia, en­hance pub­lic mon­i­tor­ing, and spread the culture of me­dia ac­count­abil­ity among the me­dia, jour­nal­ists, and so­ci­ety.“The main task is to cor­rect fake news and ru­mours,” Al Zoubi noted, adding that they teach stu­dents tech­no­log­i­cal tools such InVID and Google tools to fact-check news.

“We also teach them that the vir­tual world is the same as the real one, has main ethics and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, and that they do not have the ab­so­lute free­dom to do or pub­lish what­ever they want,” Al Zoubi con­cluded.



Mo­hamed Has­sanein

Diana Skaini

Muhan­nad Mun­jed Hameed

Noure­hane Saif Eldin

Anoud Al Zoubi

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