The continent’s foremost fact-checking awards received a record number of 216 entries from 28 African countries. Top honours in the 2021 African Fact-Checking Awards went to fact-checkers from Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Senegal. Winners were announced during a virtual awards ceremony on Tuesday 12 October, part of the 17th African Investigative Journalism Conference.
Hosted by Africa Check, the continent’s first independent fact-checking organisation, the awards programme honours fact-checking journalism by the media in Africa and awards winners and runners-up in two categories: Fact-Check of the Year by a Working Journalist and Fact-Check of the Year by a Student Journalist.
“Now in its eighth year, the awards programme honours fact-checking journalism by the media in Africa. This year, we received a record number of 216 entries from 28 countries. This is the first time that we have received more than 200 since we started the awards in 2014,” said Africa Check chief editor Lee Mwiti at the awards ceremony.
Jean le Roux from the Digital Forensic Research Lab in Cape Town, South Africa, was announced as the winner of the award for Fact-Check of the Year by a Working Journalist for his investigation of claims by the Nigerian army that reports of soldiers opening fire on peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate in October 2020 were “fake news”.
Le Roux used open-source evidence to confirm that armed soldiers fired their weapons in the presence of protesters and found no evidence to support the army’s claim that reports of the shooting were “fake”.
AFP Fact Check’s Oluwasegun Olakoyenikan was announced as the runner-up in this category for his report in which he found that several Nigerian media outlets as well as president Muhammadu Buhari’s aide, Bashir Ahmad, incorrectly reported that the so-called “EU Human Rights Forum” commended Buhari for the swiftness of the rescue of hundreds of kidnapped boys in December 2020. He found that no such forum existed.
Reagan Kiyimba from Makerere University in Uganda was announced as the winner of the category of Fact-Check of the Year by a Student Journalist – making him the first-ever Africa-Check winner from Uganda. He investigated a claim that the country had a herbal cure for Covid-19.
The runner-up is Fatma Mbacké from the CESTI journalism school in Senegal who debunked a false claim that Ghanaian farmers had stopped exporting cocoa to Europe.
Commenting on the quality of this year’s entries, the chair of the judging panel, Dr Roukaya Kasenally from the University of Mauritius, said that the judges were pleased to note a good gender, geographical and language range. She said the judges were impressed by the “depth and breadth” of the topics covered in the entries – from Covid-19 misinformation to governance issues and deepfakes linked to heads of state.
Africa Check executive director Noko Makgato said each year the number of entries to the awards increased and so did the quality of the work, an indication of the growing practice of fact checking among African journalists. .
The winner of the best fact-check in the category for working journalists bagged a prize of $3,000 and the runner-up $1,500. The winner of the students category took home $2,000 while the runner-up collected $1,000.
Featured Image: Jean le Roux announced as the winner of the award for Fact-Check of the Year by a Working Journalist