Fact-checking essential to free speech, not censorship – IFCN

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Fact-checkers from across the world have called on the public to support the fact-checking community globally as they face increasing hostility, including online threats, legal challenges and targeted harassment.

This was disclosed in a statement on June 26, 2024 as the GlobalFact 11 conference kicks off in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The statement coordinated by the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) at the Poynter Institute, is supported by 130 fact-checking organizations in 80 countries around the world. The organizations are all signatories to the IFCN Code of Principles, which affirms high standards for accuracy, non-partisanship and transparency in fact-checking journalism.

READ: GlobalFact11: Fact-checkers to discuss AI, public policy and sustainability in Sarajevo

The Sarajevo Statement which was drafted at the conference aims to counter ongoing attacks and asserts that fact-checking is an exercise of free expression dedicated to providing the public with accurate information and enhancing the information ecosystems.

Recent legislative attempts in Nigeria, such as the proposed social media bill, have sparked widespread debate about censorship and regulation of online content.

“At the annual meeting of the world’s fact-checkers in 2024 in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina — our 11th GlobalFact meeting — it is time to restate our longstanding commitment to access to information and freedom of expression, for all people and across borders.

“All people have the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. Fact-checking is deeply rooted in these principles. Fact-checking requires the right and ability to find sources, read widely and interview experts who are free to speak candidly — all as part of a rigorous methodology and process.

“This is the foundation on which all true fact-checking is built. Fact-checking is part of a free press and high-quality journalism, and it contributes to public information and knowledge,” part of the statement read.

Nigeria has seen significant debate over censorship and regulation of online content, particularly with the proposed social media bill, which seeks to regulate social media use and curb the spread of false information. However critics argue that such regulations could stifle freedom of expression and legitimate journalism, including fact-checking efforts.

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Angie Holan, IFCN Director.
Angie Holan, IFCN Director.

Commenting on the statement, the IFCN director, Angie Holan, said: “… Fact-checkers have in recent years been relentlessly attacked as online censors, and after such attacks many have been subject to verbal abuse, doxxing, coordinated attacks, legal threats, political pressure and even physical violence.

“However, as an expression of speech, fact-checking cannot be considered censorship in any true sense of the word. Censorship removes information. Fact-checking adds it.”

She added that false claims should not be allowed to go viral, rather the public should be provided with the appropriate context and verification in order to determine the claims’ veracity.

Holan noted that the role fact-checking plays in providing accurate information is essential for the public to make informed decisions about all aspects of their lives.

Fact-checker at The FactheckHub | [email protected]

Seasoned fact-checker and researcher Fatimah Quadri has written numerous fact-checks, explainers, and media literacy pieces for The FactCheckHub in an effort to combat information disorder. She can be reached at sunmibola_q on X or [email protected].

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