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Fact-checkers from Nigeria, Indonesia and Brazil win GlobalFact 10 awards
For years, lured by the promise of an easy cure, people across Nigeria's capital of Abuja sought relief from ailments such as malaria, typhoid, stomach ulcers and other sources of pain through a popular traditional “medicine” called Baba Aisha. But the comforting promises concealed a harmful truth.
Suspicious of the outlandish claims, Kemi Busari, editor of the Nigerian fact-checking outlet Dubawa, embarked on a five-month investigation that exposed the misleading assertions and led to immediate change. This investigation won the International Fact-Checking Network’s Highest Impact Award during June’s GlobalFact 10 summit in Seoul.
“What caught my attention and led to the investigation was the advertisement for the medicine, which misinformed people,” Busari said.
Kemi Busari (center) celebrates the win with his Dubawa colleagues in Abuja, Nigeria. (Courtesy: Dubawa/KemiBusari)
In the medicine’s nine-minute ad, a confident-sounding “Dr.” Salisu Sani Na Wagini, who many know as Baba Aisha, passionately recounted testimonies from satisfied customers and listed the myriad ailments that the concoction, also known as Sacra Herbs, can cure.
He recommended a dosage of one 120ml bottle a day, and boldly discouraged patients from going to the hospital or taking their children there.
“Even if you have the intention to go to hospital, Dr. Salisu Sani says, don’t go,” he says in the recording blared from car speakers across the city of an estimated 3.8 million people.
Busari sought to illuminate the content of the medicine, its safety and the legal framework that allowed it to thrive.
He interviewed more than a 1,000 retailers carrying the drug, who, like Baba Aisha, expressed confidence in its ability to cure all the listed diseases.
“To test the claims of effectiveness and safety, I bought four bottles of the medicine in four different locations in Abuja,” Busari said. He then sent them to an independent laboratory at Afe Babalola University for thorough testing.
While waiting for the results, Busari quickly established that one of the drug’s registration numbers was fake, while the other, acquired under questionable grounds, had long expired. And the company running the whole operation? It was unregistered, contrary to requirements.
Olaposi Omotuyi, a professor at Afe Babalola who holds a doctorate in biochemistry, called to share shocking lab results: All of the animals in the two groups that were administered Sacra herbs died within three to six days.
“It (the drug) makes the kidney function almost impossible, it makes the liver function almost impossible; that means that anyone who takes this (Baba Aisha herbal medicine) is at a high risk of acute kidney injury, if not chronic,” Omotuyi said.
After Dubawa published the 5,436-word report in June, the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control launched a probe into the fact-checker’s key findings.
“The fact check had an immediate impact and still continues to,” Busari said.
Four days after the story came out, Nigeria’s national drug regulator raided and sealed off the building where the concoction was being produced, arrested two people and seized some items. Salisu Sani was arrested and detained ([link removed]) .
Days later, the food and drug administration announced a nationwide mop-up of the dangerous substance.
Read Busari’s full investigation here ([link removed]) .
** Most Creative Format award goes to comic book
Indonesia’s Cek Fakta - Liputan 6, another IFCN verified signatory, presented a comic book that ultimately won the extremely competitive Most Creative Format GlobalFact 10 award.
The 128-page book Lawan Hoaks (Fight Hoax), aimed at young readers, is based on 21 debunked claims that spread during the COVID-19 pandemic. The fact-checkers distributed the graphics-heavy book to schools, libraries and universities.
For fake-checkers interested in a similar approach, Liputan 6’s Elin Yunita recommends creating social media-shareable comic strips.
Read more about Liputan 6’s award-winning book here ([link removed]) .
** Most Innovative Collaboration goes to Brazil
A joint effort by Brazil’s leading fact-checkers to tackle misinformation surrounding the hotly contested 2022 presidential election won the Most Innovative Collaboration GlobalFact 10 award.
Members of Confirma 2022 receive their collaboration award at the GlobalFact 10 ceremony. Flanking the group are IFCN's Enock Nyariki (far left) and Alanna Dvorak (far right), who presented the trophy. (Courtesy: IFCN)
Agência Lupa, Estadão Verifica, Aos Fatos, Universo Online and Projeto Comprova partnered with Brazil’s top court, which oversees the electoral process in the country, to collect 347,000 questions and public requests for fact checks about the elections.
Read the full article about the award-winning projects ([link removed]) .
Fact-checkers in the news
An article ([link removed]) recently discussed media literacy efforts by Dubawa and the Center for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) in Africa. Their program ahead of the 2021 presidential election in The Gambia offered lessons for other countries on media literacy. The fact-checking program emphasized “how the freedom of information and expression are key elements of liberal democracy but can often be at odds with fact-based information,” wrote James J. Fisher for the London School of Economics.
Baybars Orsek of Logically (and former IFCN director) wrote an opinion piece for The Hill, “Why media literacy is key to tackling AI-powered misinformation ([link removed]) .” Most people don’t like dealing with misinformation, he said: “Our research shows that most people want and expect social media firms to do more to tackle misinformation. Six out of ten people (61%) believe more could be done by social media companies .... Only one in ten believes these companies should not be fact-checking anything.”
Baybars also wrote about fact-checking in India in a piece for The Indian Express, urging its government to take the opportunity to create misinformation legislation ([link removed]) that could serve as a model for other countries: “As the world’s largest democracy, India is well-placed to create a regulatory framework that protects freedom of speech and the press while combating misinformation.”
The Associated Press interviewed Factchequeado founders Laura Zommer and Clara Jiménez Cruz about misinformation in the 2024 U.S. election ([link removed]) that targets immigrant voters. Misinformation “takes advantage of their very real fear and trauma from their experiences in their home countries,” Laura said.
IFCN director Angie Drobnic Holan was interviewed by Geo.tv of Pakistan for a report, “AI: Boon for political propaganda and bane for fact-checkers ([link removed]) ”, about the challenges of fact-checking political messages created by artificial intelligence.
Help make this newsletter diverse and reflective of our global membership! Send links to news about fact-checking around the world to [email protected] (mailto:[email protected]?subject=RE%3A%20Links%20to%20news%20about%20fact-checking) . We welcome non-English language coverage.
Documenting how fact-checkers have turned from political fact-checking toward misinformation fact-checking is the latest research from Lucas Graves of University of Wisconsin, Valérie Bélair-Gagnon of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and Rebekah Larsen of OsloMet.
Their paper, “From Public Reason to Public Health ([link removed]) : Professional Implications of the ‘Debunking Turn’ in the Global Fact-Checking Field,” documents a turn from politics to the internet: “What practitioners call ‘debunking,’ once a minor focus, now dominates the agenda of leading outlets and accounts for the bulk of fact-checks produced worldwide, driven in part by commercial partnerships between fact-checkers and platform companies.”
Jigsaw recently announced results of its prebunking experiment ([link removed]) in Poland, Czechia, and Slovakia, testing how prebunking videos reduced the spread of misinformation about Ukrainian refugees. The results varied by country, but ultimately Jigsaw concluded that “prebunking has promise to scale quickly across platforms and to build resilience to disinformation even in the noisy environment of social media.”
The Conversation recently explained how governments take steps to shut down the internet ([link removed]) in their countries using routing disruptions and packet filtering. Lisa Garbe, a researcher who investigates the causes and consequences of internet access disruptions and censorship in Africa, wrote the report.
Comparing the effectiveness of misinformation interventions in the Global North and the Global South was the subject of a recent paper ([link removed]) by six researchers, including Robert A. Blair, Jessica Gottlieb, and Brendan Nyhan.
Its key finding? More research is needed to study the most promising areas: “Strikingly, experts express the greatest optimism about the interventions for which the least evidence exists. Specifically, the three most popular interventions among experts — media literacy, journalist training, and platform alterations — are among the least studied,” they wrote.
Fact-checking job opportunities
Snopes is looking for two early-career news reporters to join their fully remote, digital newsroom. The positions will concentrate on writing quick-hit traditional news stories, with opportunities for advancement into fact checking and more senior-writing roles. See their ad ([link removed]) .
The IFCN continues to accept applications for a misinformation reporter to help report and write coverage for Factually and for Poynter.org. This U.S.-based reporter will help the fact-checking community understand its own diversity and impact and will help news consumers understand how fact-checkers do their work. Applicants should send three reporting/writing samples, a resume and a cover letter explaining why they’d be a good fit for this position to [email protected]
Send links to future job opportunities to [email protected] (mailto:[email protected]) .
Fact-checking question of the month
This month’s question: Many fact-checkers take pains to document and preserve the posts and images they fact-check, because they often disappear quickly. But archiving online content isn’t always easy — especially on Facebook. What is your best method for archiving online content so that it doesn’t disappear permanently?
Send your answer to [email protected] (mailto:[email protected]?subject=Archiving%20Question) , subject line: Archiving Question. We’ll collect and summarize the best responses for a future edition of Factually!
This concludes this installment of Factually, brought to you by the following IFCN team members. We're continuing to innovate and experiment with this newsletter, so let us know what you think at [email protected] (mailto:factu[email protected]?subject=About%20Factually) . See you next time!
Angie Drobnic Holan, IFCN Director
Enock Nyariki, community manager