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Cfa – Monusco: LaCloche better equipped to combat disinformation

LaCloche has evolved into a powerful sentinel of the truth, thanks to Code For africa (Cfa) and MONUSCO’s joint fact-checking programme.

By: Cléophas KYEMBWE BABU, from LaCloche

LaCloche Media Information and Communication Centre is a fact-checking initiative fighting to stop the spread of fake news and hate speech across networks. The medium quickly became a success after its launch in 2017. It was set up by its « Habari Check » centre for monitoring and documenting false information. The medium soon positioned itself as a benchmark for fact-checking in Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes sub-region of Africa.

But due to a lack of support and opportunities, its fact checking and data journalism mission has been severely strained.

Recently, thanks to a fact-checking capacity-building fellowship, the newsroom has recovered its wings and repositioned itself in fact-checking. The driving force behind this was a programme funded by the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) and implemented by Code for Africa (CfA) through the African Fact-Checking Alliance (AFCA). This joint programme has enabled LaCloche media to rebuild, reinvent itself and strengthen its team, while giving new impetus to fact-checking.

A strong, solid fact-checking desk 

The programme mainly consisted of capacity-building in fact-checking techniques, mentoring and technical and financial support for fact-checkers in Democratic Republic of Congo, including LaCloche.

Pierre Buyoya Kashindi, Chairman of the media’s Board of Directors, pointed out that “LaCloche’s integration into the African Fact-Checking Alliance (AFCA) has helped the platform to improve its skills in fact-checking techniques and to gain a significant level of knowledge in digital media and information literacy.”

The fellowship to combat disinformation in DRC, launched by Code for Africa and MONUSCO, has been the compass guiding LaCloche towards a new impetus, he argues. This has enabled the editorial team to consolidate and push back the boundaries of fact-checking in the service of truth.

The first part of the programme focused on building the capacity of a fact-checking journalist from LaCloche’s editorial team, Cléophas Kyembwe. In addition to the technical skills received, the programme also offered mentorship, providing invaluable guidance to help LaCloche, particularly in terms of producing quality articles.

Cléophas Kyembwe Babu, a fellow on the programme, praises the impact of the mentorship: “The mentorship has been valuable. It guided us through editorial challenges and broadened our understanding of fact-checking. It was a pillar of article production for our skill. This fellowship was an opportunity to further develop my skills and understanding of fact-checking. I’ve seen an improvement in the use of tools and the way of writing a fact-checking article for the fact-checker that I am,” he emphasised.

The programme lasted 4 months running from August to November 2023. During this period, the newsroom produced eight (08) fact-checking articles under the guidance of a mentor, an editor at PesaCheck, Code for Africa’s fact-checking initiative.

Opening up LaCloche to new opportunities

Thanks to the fellowship, the newsroom now has a better knowledge and understanding of the stakes and opportunities of the AFCA network, as well as other knowledge, particularly of the standards of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). LaCloche has gained credibility thanks to the quality of its output during the programme. A positive note that now opens the door to other opportunities in the field. 

The programme has helped to raise the profile of the organosation beyond its borders, with a reach covering the entire Great Lakes sub-region of Africa. This has enabled us to share our experiences and forge partnerships with colleagues in Cameroon, Burundi, Tanzania and Benin.

A few challenges

LaCloche is grateful to Code for Africa for all the efforts made to tackle certain bottlenecks, including weaknesses in the use of some tools such as CrowdTangle, YouTube Data Viewer, and hypertext link archiving tools. This support has enabled the editorial team to master these techniques and tools.

Electricity and connectivity were other major challenges, making it difficult to participate in workshops and online sessions. Finally, the communication tool used for exchanges with Code for Africa – Slack – proved to be complex for us to use in the early stages of the adventure.

However, all these challenges did not prevent LaCloche from making the most of the programme to arm itself against disinformation in DRC.

Recommendations and future perspectives

With this programme having laid the foundations, LaCloche hopes to continue a fruitful collaboration with Code for Africa and PesaCheck, alongside the other AFCA members, with a view to combating the proliferation of misinformation on the continent. 

LaCloche urges Code for Africa to step up its efforts to build the fact-checking skills of the newsrooms and civil society organisations. It advocates increased support for fellows involved in the fight against disinformation, as well as the holding of physical meetings bringing together fact-checkers for an effective and impactful exchange of experience.

——————This article was written by Cléophas KYEMBWE BABU from LaCloche as part of the MONUSCO fellowship programme, with support from Code for Africa, through its fact-checking initiative, PesaCheck and the Alliance africaine de fact-checking (AFCA).

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