Training Journalists In The Era Of Fake News

 

 

As uncannily realistic “deep fake” videos proliferate online, including one recently retweeted by Donald Trump, journalism schools are scrambling to adapt to an era of misinformation — or fake news.

Experts discussed how to train tomorrow’s reporters for these new challenges at the World Journalism Education Congress in Paris last week.

The three-day event — “Teaching Journalism During a Disruptive Age” — was attended by 600 educators and researchers from 70 countries.

“We have journalism educators from places as different as Bangladesh and Uganda, but essentially we all face the same challenges,” congress organiser Pascal Guenee, head of IPJ Dauphine journalism school in Paris, told AFP.

In China, the government makes no secret of its tight grip on the media.

But fake news is seeping into traditional media via Weibo, WeChat and other Chinese-language social media platforms, said journalism professor Peiqin Chen of the Shanghai International Studies University.

“When someone posts false information on Weibo, it can be reposted by a mainstream newspaper’s Weibo account,” she said. “Other mainstream media pick up on it from there.”

“Mainstream media play the biggest role in confirming and spreading fake news in China,” she added.

For politics or profit

It was US President Donald Trump who first popularised the phrase “fake news” in attacks on the news media.

But in May, Trump tweeted a video of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi which appeared to have been edited to focus on sections of a speech in which she stuttered and mispronounced certain words.

“Pelosi stammers through news conference,” he wrote.

Another doctored Pelosi video, which went viral online, slowed down her speech to give the impression she was drunk.

The motivation behind fake news is not always political, said Gifty Appiah-Adjei from the University of Education in Ghana.

“Often it is for financial gain by creating internet traffic, or it’s entertainment,” she told AFP. “And some people write fake stories just for fun.”

Journalism education “is the most effective means by which fake news can be addressed”, she argued.

Until recently, however, how to detect and counter fake news has rarely been taught as a stand-alone course at journalism schools, she said.

Checking sources has “always been part of the curriculum,” said Kamilla Nigmatullina, senior lecturer at Russia’s Saint Petersburg State University.

But today’s ever-more sophisticated misinformation — including doctored videos and photos — requires a fresh approach.

“Journalism schools in China give some courses in fact-checking, but the academic material we study is based on research in other countries,” said Chen.

“China still has a long way to go.”

But for Nigmatullina, we do not need to develop a whole new discipline.

Technology not the answer

“What we do need is joint research with scholars from different disciplines,” she told AFP.

“We could work with neuroscience students, for example, to determine why people decide to share certain information.”

In one project organised by the European Journalism Training Association (EJTA), students from almost 20 journalism schools in 13 countries participated in the fact-checking of articles in the run-up to the European Union elections.

One of the aims, said project manager Nadia Vissers from the Artesis Plantijn University in Belgium, was to learn the difference between “misinformation” and “disinformation”.

“Misinformation is false information spread without the intention to cause harm,” she explained. “Disinformation has the intention of spreading lies and influencing people.”

Misleading information in the media, for example, about migration, climate change and Brexit was classified as “mostly true”, “mostly false”, “false” or “uncheckable”.

The project runs on a shoe-string budget, said Vissers, because “we don’t want any funding from Facebook or Google”.

“The goal is to train journalists,” said Eric Nahon, deputy head of IPJ Dauphine and chair of the panel discussion.

“Technological solutions are not the answer — we need educated journalists.”

AFP

How Conspiracy Theories Followed Man To The Moon

This NASA photo obtained July 3, 2019 shows a fully functional Launch Abort System (LAS) with a test version of Orion attached,as it soars upward on NASA’s Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test atop a Northrop Grumman provided booster on July 2, 2019, after launching at 7 am EDT, from Launch Pad 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. TONY GRAY, KEVIN O’CONNELL / NASA / AFP

 

It was the biggest piece of supposed fake news before the term “fake news” was even invented.

Millions of people across the world still believe that no one has ever walked on the Moon, and that the images that NASA broadcast in July 1969 were shot in a Hollywood studio.

Thousands of Internet sites are devoted to “proving” that the landing never happened, or calling into question the whole Apollo 11 mission.

Some claim that NASA did not have the technological know-how to pull off such a coup, or that if it did that it wasn’t done with a human crew — who would surely have been fried alive by cosmic rays.

Others tout possible alien involvement, which of course has been covered up — as has the lunar civilisation the astronauts discovered…

But almost all the conspiracy theories focus on supposed anomalies in the grainy photos and videos which NASA sent back to Earth.

Shadows in the footage show they were suspect, as is the absence of stars in the sky in some images — theories which have long since been refuted by scientists.

Yet theories live on regardless of proof from the Lunar Orbiter in 2009 which showed the abandoned modules from Apollo 11, 14, 15, 16 and 17 still on the Moon’s surface.

Six in 10 Russians sceptical

When Apollo 11’s lunar module touched down on the Sea of Tranquility in 1969, less than one in 20 Americans doubted what they were seeing on their television screens.

By the turn of the century a Gallup poll found scepticism has only spread to six percent of the population.

In contrast, more than half of Russians — the old Cold War enemy — still refuse to believe that the Americans got there first.

But surprisingly serious doubt is also rampant among some of Washington’s closest allies, with a 2009 TNS survey showing a quarter of British people did not believe the landings happened, while nine percent of French people were also unconvinced, according to pollsters Ifop.

Academic Didier Desormeaux, who has written widely on conspiracy theories, said the more important an event the more likely it is to attract outrageous counter-narratives.

“Conquering space was a major event for humanity. Undermining that can shake the very foundations of science and man’s mastery of nature,” he told AFP, making it a huge target for conspiracists.

While earlier conspiracy theories also involved images — such as the assassination of US president John F Kennedy in 1963, and the so-called Roswell UFO incident — “what is new about these rumours is that they are based on a minute deconstruction of the images sent back by NASA,” the French specialist insisted.

‘Images anaesthetise thinking’

For Desormeaux it is the first time a “conspiracy theory was built entirely around the visual interpretation of a media event — which they denounce entirely as a set-up.”

The same logic has been used repeatedly to dismiss school massacres in the US as fake, he added, with hardcore conspiracists claiming that the dead “are played by actors”.

“Images can anaesthetise our capacity to think” when deployed with ever more twisted leaps of logic, Desormeaux warned.

“The power of such theories is that no matter what they survive, because they become a belief which comes with a kind of evangelism and so they can go on forever,” he added.

For NASA’s former official historian Roger Launius, “the fact that the denials of the Moon landings would not go away should not surprise anyone.”

Launius — who has devoted a large part of his career to fighting them — said in his latest book, “Apollo’s Legacy”, that deniers “do not accept the same rules of investigation and knowledge that all others live by.

“They have tapped into a rich vein of distrust of government, populists critiques of society and questions about the fundamentals of (scientific method) and knowledge creation,” he added.

For decades they have played on “our deepest and most secret fears”, fed by America’s defeat in the Vietnam war at home and by anti-Americanism abroad, he said.

But Launius also blames the media for adding fuel to flames of paranoia.

“Moon landings denials were fanned by… competition for a new and different perspective on the events,” he said.

AFP

Nigerian Journalist Facing Terror Charges Granted Bail

Jones Abiri was arrested in 2016 Photo: Jones Abiri/Facebook

 

A Nigerian journalist facing terrorism, economic sabotage and fraud charges has been granted conditional bail, court officials said Tuesday — but has to stay in jail until he meets the conditions.

Judge Ijeoma Ojukwu granted a defence request for bail to Jones Abiri, editor and publisher of the Weekly Source newspaper, in a hearing Monday.

She set the date for the start of the trial on Friday.

Abiri denies charges of sending text messages to oil companies threatening to blow up their facilities. He says he has been targeted for his coverage of the neglect of his native Niger Delta by oil companies and the government.

READ ALSO: Court Strikes Out Case Against Jones Abiri For Lack Of Jurisdiction

Judge Ojukwu ordered Abiri to pay 100 million naira (282,000 dollars) and also to provide a guarantor who would have to be a landowner, a common proviso in Nigerian courts. Until then, he has to remain in custody, the judge added.

Abiri was previously detained by intelligence officers for two years without trial over alleged links to armed rebel groups in the Niger Delta region.

He was freed last August following a campaign by rights organisations.

AFP

Boko Haram: FG To Launch Media Campaign In Support Of Troops   

Why FG Made It ‘A Cardinal Principle’ To Tackle Insecurity – Lai Mohammed
Mr Lai Mohammed addresses a press conference in Abuja on December 10, 2018.

 

The Federal Government is set to launch a media campaign to support the Military in fighting insurgency in the northeast.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, stated this on Tuesday during a news conference in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

According to him, the reason for the media campaign is partly because of some media reports which he says could endanger the efforts of troops fighting insurgency.

“The activities of a section of the media and some opposition political parties are demoralising the military and is strengthening the insurgents,” he said.

Mohammed, however, believes that the nation is winning the war against terrorism and the troops will continue to do its best in that regard.

Reacting to the calls made by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the removal of Amina Zakari from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Minister said her appointed was made during the PDP’s administration.

READ ALSO: President Buhari Is Not My Cousin, He Is Not My Uncle – Amina Zakari

PDP Accuses APC Of Plot To Rig Elections, Demands Removal Of Amina Zakari

He stated that Zakari made her way into the electoral umpire following her appointment by former President Goodluck Jonathan.

“The PDP has nearly completely forgotten that she was appointed a commission in their own time.

“What has changed now? Whoever wants to circulate any audio or video clip should please do so in its entirety so the people can understand the context,” he said.

Trump Blames Media For ‘Division And Hatred’ In US

US Mail Bombing Suspect An Ardent Trump Supporter
US President Donald Trump speaks during an event on a year of progress and action to combat the opioid crisis, in the East Room of the White House on October 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump blamed the media once again Monday for “division and hatred” in the country as Americans took stock of a gunman’s attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 worshippers.

“The Fake News is doing everything in their power to blame Republicans, Conservatives and me for the division and hatred that has been going on for so long in our Country,” he said on Twitter.

“There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news,” Trump continued. “The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly.

“That will do much to put out the flame of Anger and Outrage and we will then be able to bring all sides together in Peace and Harmony. Fake News Must End!”

Trump had initially called for unity in the face of Saturday’s assault on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, in a week in which prominent Democrats were the targets of pipe bombs sent through the mail, allegedly by a Trump supporter in Florida.

But he quickly reverted to form, attacking the media and potential Democratic rivals for the presidency at a rally and on Twitter as Americans looked forward to crucial midterm elections November 6.

In an open letter Sunday, a group of Jewish leaders from Pittsburgh said Trump bore responsibility for encouraging white nationalist sentiments that led to the synagogue attack.

“For the past three years, your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement. You yourself called the murderer evil, but yesterday’s violence is the direct culmination of your influence,” the open letter said.

The signers said that until Trump fully denounced white nationalism he would not be welcome in Pittsburgh.

However, Jeffrey Myers, a Tree of Life rabbi who was in the synagogue when the heavily armed gunman burst in on worshippers, said Trump would be welcome if he visited.

“The president of the United States is always welcome. I’m a citizen. He’s my president. He is certainly welcome,” Myers said on CNN.

AFP

Pogba Banned From Speaking To Media After United Stalement

 

Paul Pogba said he was not allowed to talk after Manchester United failed to arrest their recent slump with a drab 0-0 Champions League draw against Valencia.

Jose Mourinho’s United have made their worst start to a league campaign in 29 years after an embarrassing 3-1 loss at West Ham and are already out of the League Cup.

Tuesday’s stalemate at Old Trafford was their fourth consecutive match without a win.

Many players avoided the post-match mixed zone interview area after the game to avoid awkward questions.

Pogba was among those to go through but told reporters “I’ve been told I’m not allowed (to talk).”

The French World Cup winner, who was last week told he would not captain the side again, appeared to get under Mourinho’s skin after their recent draw with Wolves by saying United should attack more.

Captain Antonio Valencia and midfielder Marouane Fellaini have both backed the manager despite the growing crisis at the club.

Valencia insisted he is “fully supportive” of Mourinho after appearing to back calls for the under-fire manager to leave.

The 33-year-old ‘liked’ an Instagram post from a fan account which said that “recently Mourinho has made watching us a punishment” and “it’s time for Mourinho to go”.

But he attempted to explain and apologise on Wednesday.

“Yesterday, I liked a post on Instagram without reading the text that accompanied the picture,” the right-back wrote on Twitter.

“These are not my views and I apologise for this. I am fully supportive of the manager and my teammates.”

“Everything will calm down when we get some wins,” the Ecuadoran added. “We are 100 per cent behind the manager.”

The players attempted to show a united front before kick-off by breaking with tradition and taking part in a pre-match huddle.

“Everyone is going in the same direction to try to improve and to do better,” Fellaini said of the on-pitch huddle. “I think we wanted to show that we are together.”

“I think we showed improvement and we have to keep going,” he added. “Everybody (was behind the idea). I think everybody is behind the manager.”

AFP

Be Fair In Reporting Govt Activities, Lai Mohammed Tells Media

Be Fair In Reporting Govt Activities, Lai Mohammed Tells Media
File photo: Mr Lai Mohammed

 

The Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, has appealed to the media to always ensure fairness, impartiality, truth and accuracy in reporting the activities of government

He said this on Thursday in Abuja where he asked them to carry out their duties in line with the principles of responsible journalism.

READ ALSO: We Want To Be Fairly Reported, Buhari Tells Media

Mr Mohammed made the appeal in a statement by his media aide Segun Adeyemi, to mark the 2018 World Press Freedom Day with the theme “Keeping Power In Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law.”

He said that as an important pillar of democracy, the media must purge itself of all prejudice in order to be able to hold all the levels and arms of government to account.

The minister, however, commended the role of the media so far in promoting democracy in Nigeria, adding that they should strive to operate above political influence and interference.

He noted that as the political parties and the nation in general prepare for another electioneering process, the media must ensure the transparency of the entire political process through unbiased and objective reporting.

Mohammed was worried about how some vested political interests were allegedly exploring the media to promote divisions along ethnic and religious lines in the country, saying such unpatriotic conduct would not augur well for the nation’s unity and progress.

He stressed that the government was not unaware of the effort of mischief makers to use the social media, in particular, to undermine it and promote ethnic and religious crises, especially ahead of the forthcoming general elections.

The minister further restated the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to press freedom in the country.

He added that the present administration would continue to ensure that journalists are able to carry out their duties unfettered.

We Want To Be Fairly Reported, Buhari Tells Media

We Want To Be Fairly Reported, Buhari Tells Media
File photo

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has asked the media to be mindful of fairness, justice, and national interest at all times in the course of its responsibilities.

The President said this in a statement on Wednesday by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day which is observed every May 3.

Although he pledged an unfettered environment for the media to do its work, he noted that the responsibility was reciprocal.

“The media can count on us to keep our words, but we also want to be fairly reported,” President Buhari said. “The media should hold ethics of the noble profession sacrosanct and be wary of those bent on causing disaffection in the country.”

Reflecting on this year’s theme ‘Keeping Power In Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law’, the President reaffirmed his commitment to an atmosphere in which the media is free from harassment or any form of attack in the exercise of the profession, within the ambit of the law.

He stressed that a positively critical media was vital to national development, and the growth of the nation’s democracy.

President Buhari warned journalists that a media that cavils would only generate unwarranted tension in a plural society like Nigeria.

He said, “The world is in the throes of animosities generated by fake news and hate speech, often spawned by some media, particularly the digital variant called social media.

“On this World Press Freedom Day, those involved in the negative antics should reflect and ponder on how some countries have been thrown into a tailspin by irresponsible use of the media. We have no other country than Nigeria, and what we make of it is what we get.”

As the country prepares for its general elections next year, the President urged journalists to ensure they report the process fairly and without bias, irrespective of who is involved.

BON Chairman Challenges Broadcasters To Be Balanced, Objective And Fair

BON Chairman Challenges Media Operators On Greater Transparency, Accountability
BON Chairman, Mr John Momoh

 

The Chairman of Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON), Mr John Momoh, has challenged media operators in the country, especially broadcasters to be more transparent in the course of their duties.

Mr Momoh, who is also the Chairman/CEO of Channels Media Group, said this on Wednesday while addressing BON 69th General Assembly in Lagos State.

“Greater transparency and accountability are much needed in the current climate of misinformation, political lies and widespread distrust.

“In the social and political circumstance that we live in, the broadcaster should strive to be a medium of moderation, in such a way as to relay information with decorum, with a logic of perspective, and to be dispassionate in news reporting,” he said.

READ ALSOJohn Momoh Addresses BON General Assembly [FULL TEXT]

The BON chairman noted that the rules and codes of practice of journalism had already highlighted balance, objectivity, and fairness as some of the key requirements in the profession.

He said that although the operators have a general understanding of these values; some keep them while others drop the ball in some cases.

As Nigeria steps into another critical time in its political life, Momoh urged the broadcasters to perform their roles creditably and professionally.

He also warned them to give careful thought to how content is being created, to avoid discrimination, lack of understanding, misinformation, intolerance and conflict.

He said, “There are several examples of where literal work or media content has been a source of great human conflict. There are also many examples of how a misguided broadcast has caused upheaval in societies, just because due regard for the rights or wishes of others have not been considered.

“We cannot also overstate our obligations as broadcasters, either in the moral or in the constitutional sense. In all the dimensions, the charge before us is not only very clear but also onerous, which is why we cannot afford to shirk our responsibilities.”

The Channels Media Group boss stressed further that the occurrence of hate speech cannot be undermined, with the growing influence of social media and its likely role in the forthcoming elections.

Momoh described hate speech as a great threat to national cohesion which can only be rivalled by physical harm, through maiming, and killings.

Some of the other speakers at the event are the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, as well as distinguished broadcaster and diplomat, Dr Christopher Kolade.

Professor Yakubu gave an insight into the preparations for the coming elections as it relates to the media, while Dr Kolade focused on hate speech in the build-up to the 2019 polls.

You Cannot Censor The Media, PDP Tells FG

You Cannot Censor The Media, PDP Tells FG

 

The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has taken a swipe at the Federal Government over what it perceives as an attempt to censor the media.

PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement on Thursday faulted the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, who briefed journalists on the government’s achievements so far.

“APC’s attempt to gag the media is pathetic, as no amount of censorship or bandying of false figures would stop Nigerians from reflecting on the real state of affairs in our country today,” he said while criticising the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Ologbondiyan believes President Muhammadu Buhari’s government seems to have dashed the expectations of numerous Nigerians.

He claimed that the minister gave “unverifiable statistics” of the government’s achievements when he received a team of journalists on Tuesday in Abuja.

The PDP spokesman noted that the purported failures of the Federal Government must not be downplayed by censoring the media.

“Nigerians know that the APC has failed and that the Buhari-led Presidency is directly responsible for the collapse of our economy, which was thriving under the PDP.

“They know that the torrents started buffeting the nation from May 29, 2015, and no amount of propaganda and futile efforts to censor the media by the APC will change the facts,” Ologbondiyan said.

The statement read further: “While we note the minister’s snap that the media should contextualise their reporting, we ask; how else should the media contextualise the sudden collapse of the economy with the naira tumbling from N197/ 1USD in 2015 when PDP handed over power, to N360-N400/ 1USD, without placing the blame at the doorsteps of President Muhammadu Buhari and his dysfunctional APC?

“How else should the media contextualise the fact that under the Buhari Government, over 8 million Nigerians lost their jobs between 2016 to 2017; 16 million were unemployed, 18 million more were underemployed, while another 27.44 million refused to work in 2016 for various reasons related to frustration in the polity?”

The PDP further reiterated that the government should accept its failures and seek help from well-meaning Nigerians.

Macron Boots French Media From Presidential Press Room

Macron 'Happy' Merkel Coalition Deal In Sight
File: French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at the Elysee Palace in Paris,                IMAGE:LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP

The French presidency announced Wednesday that it is kicking reporters out of the Elysee Palace and down the street in a move that symbolises Emmanuel Macron’s desire to keep the media at arm’s length.

Reporters have had a press room inside the Elysee for the past four decades from which to cover press conferences, foreign leaders’ visits and other events.

AFP and other news agencies have permanent desks there, notably allowing them to see who is arriving for meetings with the president thanks to the press room’s location overlooking the main courtyard.

But Macron’s communications advisor Sibeth Ndiaye told reporters the presidency had decided to move the press room into an annexe down the street “in order to make it bigger”.

The move will take place by the summer, she said.

Asked if Macron was trying to “get the press out of the way”, Ndiaye said that was “not the president’s intention”.

Macron had made no secret of his desire to see journalists booted from the main Elysee building when he was elected in May, but the idea was put on the backburner after it prompted an uproar from the media.

The current press room will become a meeting room for presidential advisors, Ndiaye said, insisting the decision was made for “practical reasons”.

The move is the latest of a string of signs from Macron that he intends to keep a much tighter leash on the media than his gossip-loving predecessor Francois Hollande.

Hollande regularly chatted to reporters off-the-record and was ultimately damaged by a tell-all book, “A President Shouldn’t Say That”, published at the end of his term based on his conversations with two political journalists.

Macron gave a nearly two-hour briefing to reporters on a range of issues on Tuesday night, but press access to the president has so far been tightly controlled.

He drew mockery early in his presidency for comparing his job to that of the Roman king of the gods Jupiter, staying above the fray of daily politics and giving few interviews.

Centre-right president Valery Giscard d’Estaing, in power from 1974 to 1981, was the first to allow journalists an office at the Elysee.

His Socialist successor Francois Mitterrand moved it to its current location on the courtyard, where journalists can watch the comings and goings, in order to boost transparency.

AFP

Republican Senator Slams Trump For Stalin-Like Attacks On Media

We Want Immigrants 'From Everywhere' To Come To US - Trump
US President Donald Trump
NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP

A maverick senator from Donald Trump’s own Republican party launched a stinging attack on the president on Wednesday, accusing him of employing Stalinist language to attack and undermine the free press.

Arizona lawmaker Jeff Flake levelled the broadside in an address from the Senate floor, timed to coincide with the expected announcement of controversial “Fake News Awards” by Trump’s administration.

Flake — an outspoken critic of the president who is not seeking re-election this year — hit out at what he called Trump’s disregard for the truth, and his repeated designation of the news media as an “enemy.”

“The ‘enemy of the people’ was how the president of the United States called the free press in 2017,” Flake told lawmakers.

“Mr. President, it is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies,” he said.

“So fraught with malice was the phrase ‘enemy of the people,’ that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use.”

Flake accused Trump’s White House of a “daily assault” on the constitutionally protected right to free speech, calling it “as unprecedented as it is unwarranted.”

And he accused Trump of committing “moral vandalism” against the truth, from his longtime questioning of Barack Obama’s birth certificate to his dismissal of Russian meddling in the 2016 election as a “hoax” — and warned he was emboldening authoritarian regimes around the world to persecute the press.

“2017 was a year which saw the truth — objective, empirical, evidence-based truth more battered and abused than any time in the history of our country, at the hands of the biggest figure in our government,” Flake said.

“Without truth and a principled fidelity to truth and to shared facts, Mr President, our democracy will not last,” he warned.

Trump tweeted last week that he would be awarding “Fake News Awards” to the “most corrupt & biased of the Mainstream Media” this Wednesday — but the White House has remained evasive on whether the controversial event, already once delayed, would take place.

AFP