Journalism and fact-checking

04. Inkyfada, Tunisian-style fact-checking /

False information is a threat to our societies, but fact-checking offers a protective barrier against it, as Malek Khadhraoui knows all too well. Co-founder of the Tunisian site Inkyfada in 2014, he is now in charge of its publication.

Malek Khadhraoui – Co-founder of Inkyfada – Tunisia

The only possible source of reliable information is still a news medium run by professional journalists who stick to best practices to obtain the most accurate and reliable information possible.

After studying financial management in France, Malek decided to return to Tunisia in 2011 when the Jasmine Revolution broke out.

Malek Khadhraoui – Co-founder of Inkyfada – Tunisia

Tunisia was sinking into an extremely violent dictatorship in terms of censorship and attacks on press freedom. There was an enormous lack of information within the country itself, especially with regard to repression, torture and the regime’s abuses of power. First, I contributed to a news site serving the diaspora, based in Europe. Little by little, we founded a news outlet called Nawaat. This was in 2004, and I was there until 2011, when the regime fell. Once I was back in Tunisia, ​​creating a news medium seemed the obvious thing to do.

Inkyfada was created in 2014 by 7 people: 4 journalists, 2 developers and a designer.

Malek Khadhraoui – Co-founder of Inkyfada – Tunisia

The idea behind Inkyfada was to take the time to develop our subjects, in contrast to the frenzy of “hot news”. The point was to practise slow journalism, exploring slow formats, such as in-depth surveys, web documentaries, and data journalism. It has always been in the DNA of our operation to develop and combine these activities. Today we also have data scientists, working on and analysing data. We have tools based on artificial intelligence and machine learning that allow us to review large documents, or large data sets. Designers work alongside journalists to make information easier to take in and understand using computer graphics, some of them interactive, and 3D modelling to explain environments or situations. These activities are incorporated into the newsroom. They are not technicians, they are part of the process from day one, attending editorial meetings and supporting journalists at every stage of their work.

Malek claims fact-checking has become a journalistic practice in its own right in recent years for two reasons:

Malek Khadhraoui – Co-founder of Inkyfada – Tunisia

The first thing is the way the profession has become sloppy and less rigorous. On the one hand, there’s the race for a scoop, for an exclusive, for rapid information, while on the other, you have a great many people trying to manipulate information using tools such as social networks. So the need is now doubly pressing to make what used to be the essence of the professions a practice in its own right.

Despite an organic law In March 2016 relating to the right of access to information, the work of fact-checkers in Tunisia remains difficult.

Malek Khadhraoui – Co-founder of Inkyfada – Tunisia

As journalists we find it difficult to access official sources, to collect information from ministries, officials and so forth, or even private entities, which makes our work much more difficult. We have legal mechanisms, but it takes time to be granted access through the courts. And in the meantime, false information continues to be passed around freely and easily through the new means of communication.

How do you check your information in a newsroom like Inkyfada?

Malek Khadhraoui – Co-founder of Inkyfada – Tunisia

The editorial staff has set up a whole screening process along every step of the way, from the journalist’s first pitch right through to final validation, with the editorial director taking care of quality control in our newsroom. It is a process based as far as possible on the recording of interviews with sources. Having access to official documents, being able to cross-check information with other sources, and urging all journalists who join our editorial staff to always take a critical look at any information, however enticing it may seem. You have to be very careful about confirmation bias. Always see if anyone else can offer the same information, and be wary of anonymous sources, or of any information obtained from an undefined source. Poorly researched information or questions are often removed from articles. So we sometimes decide not to tackle a particular issue if we have doubts about the information we’ve been given.

Is today’s fact-checking enough to ward off misinformation?

Malek Khadhraoui – Co-founder of Inkyfada – Tunisia

The balance of power is disproportionate. People wishing to spread false information have far greater resources at their disposal than any editorial staff. They don’t care about checking, or about due process, The real battle is about winning back trust, restoring citizens’ confidence in the media and in the work of journalists. That doesn’t mean citizens or people on Facebook can’t pass on information, or alert journalists to stuff going on that they might not know about. News reporting can be carried out in collaboration with these individuals and citizens, but people need to believe that it is the only source of reliable information.

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