Fact checking … Finding a vaccine for misinformation

A fake picture of FOrmeer First Lady with a rhino at the WHite House. The picture was published in several newspapers

A fake picture of Former First Lady Michele Obama walking a rhinoceros at the White House. Several newspapers were tricked into publishing it. 

Speech delivered by Habib Toumi, Media Advisor, Bahrain, at the World Journalists Conference (WJC2022)

By Habib Toumi

Fact checking? Do we really need fact-checking? We most certainly do.

A few minutes ago, Korea’s Prime Minister Kim highlighted that need a few minutes ago when he said in his message to our conference: “We all need to think about the right conduct for the future of our community, and what role journalism should play.”

Technology brings out the best and the worst in people.

Smart phones have turned almost everyone into reporters with pictures and videos to make any journalist happy if they are genuine.

They may be people reporting abuse; people seeking political gains, financial gains, social gains; people targeting people they don’t like; people having have fun, candid camera style.

Yet, most of these people do not have the mindset, training or sense of responsibility of professional journalists. Nothing is off limits for them.

Misleading people dangerously on wars and vaccinations, abusing communities, deceiving the media … are fair game.

Many journalists lost their jobs after they were tricked into publishing false information.

FOrmer President Barack Obama admitted in an interview with The Atlantic that he underestimated disinformation

Former President Barack Obama admitted in an interview with The Atlantic about his time as president that he underestimated the threat of disinformation

Powerful leaders suffered because they underestimated the power of disinformation.

To deal with this terrifying mess of manipulation, news companies, media activists, college students have set up fact-checking units and associations.

The aim is to make sure people receive information based on data and facts, and not on allegations and speculations.


Fact checkers are doing a great work, but their task is not easy.

It takes time to refute fabrications, and during that time the misinformation, like a horrible virus, spreads further and infects more people.

Fact checkers also have to deal with hardcore people who refuse to change their views even when they are presented with solid facts.

I am sure you have seen such people during the COVID pandemic or now during the events unfolding in Ukraine, in Pakistan, France and elsewhere …

But fact checking should not be given up. It should be reinforced.  We should all get actively involved.

We at Asia Journalists Association (AJA) strongly support a healthy information ecosystem. During our conversation last week, Mr. Lee Sang-Ki, Former AJA President, stressed that the role of AJA, with its vast network of journalists across Asia and beyond, will become more important in cross-checking claims and verifying reports.

We need to work together and we need to do it now to make sure our world does not slide deeper into tragedies.

Besant, 17, a victim of fake picture revenge

Besant, 17, a victim of fake picture revenge

In January, a young student with big dreams killed herself after fake nasty pictures of her were posted on social media in an awful act of revenge by a man after she refused to go out with him.

She was 17 and her family who was too ashamed to stand by her did not have access to fact checking.

She was not the first victim, nor will she be the last.

How many more lives will be lost, how many more communities will be attacked, how many more races will be abused if we don’t come together to write a brighter and more sensible future for our world?

Former UN Secretary General Ban-ki moon warned that if people do not join hands to protect Earth, they will be doomed since they have no other choice

Former UN Secretary General Ban-ki moon warned that if people do not join hands to protect Earth, they will be doomed since they have no other choice

The rule for survival is very simple: If you do not fight, you lose!

In his keynote speech at the AsiaN 10th anniversary forum in February, Mr. Ban-Ki moon warned that there is only one Earth and if people do not come together to protect it from climate change and other disasters, we will all be doomed because there is no other option, there is no other Earth.

Today, I paraphrase Mr. Ban-Ki moon: If we do not work together to protect our world from the tsunami of misinformation, disinformation, mal-information, manipulations, fabrications, speculations and allegations, we will all be doomed, because there is no other option. We have nowhere else to live, nowhere else to hide.”

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