Editorial guidelines for Fumbua
The purpose of the Fumbua campaign is to stem misinformation that may impact decisions made by the public and that affect their lives. This will be done by amplifying and repurposing the fact-checking initiatives of Fumbua partner organizations and through other project activities.
For purposes of standardizing the editorial content that is shared through the Fumbua campaign platform the following general guidelines will apply.
- We are guided by the Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism in Kenya and the Code of Principles of the International Fact-checking Newtwork (IFCN).
- We address misinformation both online and offline.
- Wl prioritise claims that affect governance at a broad scale: these are claims that, if believed, will cause people to take misinformed actions.
- We avoid claims that are not framed factually, in explicit terms. E.g. claims that refer to politicians by their nicknames, opinion/satirical pieces unless taken out of context, or claims expressed through innuendo that draws from popular parlance and requires us to make assumptions or to interpret.
- We strive to ensure that the audience knows everything that we know and understands how we came to the conclusion about a claim so that they can trace the same route to come to the same conclusion.
- Given that misinformation tends to predominate around highly contested elections, we will seek to map and to prioritise electoral contests that fit this description and claims that we consider to be of wider consequential impact – without losing sight of the other claims.
- We will prioritise claims around processes relevant to the elections including those affecting peace and stability in the country. Claims around shortcomings in processes of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, the Registrar of Political Parties, the Communication Authority of Kenya, NCIC, the police and security organs and private companies that have an important role in elections such as the telcos – Safaricom/Airtel/Telkom, suppliers of goods and equipment, information – the people and processes around registration of voters, inspection of registers, etc.
- We rely on at least two authoritative sources in each fact check. In Kenya’s politically polarized environment many of the traditional respected institutions have faced challenges to their expertise and authority as references. We will therefore be guided as follows in selecting sources.
- The source must be current (data); the furthest that a set of data can backdate, in case there is no other credible source of the same information, should be 10 years.
- Their voice is relevant to the subject matter of the claim.
- They have authority on the subject matter whether as an institution or an individual.
- Individuals requesting to be anonymous may not be used as a primary source.
- In so far as possible the debunk to a claim must be supported by publicly available evidence or data.
- The source must be free from bias. It is not easy or always possible to determine the motivation or leaning of the source but this must be considered in weighing the credibility of a source.
- News media are invaluable to our work but may not be quoted as the primary or irrefutable source.
- While these guidelines support us in choosing credible sources they do not preclude interrogation and investigation of the source.
- We provide good backgrounding to each and every claim we fact-check including through links. We acknowledge that misinformation thrives around issues where there are low levels of awareness and understanding and do not assume that our audience knows or understands the background to an issue.
- When we are wrong or inaccurate we give priority to publishing a correction promptly and prominently in the same place or with similar prominence to where the mistake was published.
- The decision of the Fumbua Kenya Editor is final and is not influenced by any internal or external pressures or interests.
- These guidelines will be updated periodically and will carry the date of the last updated version.
Debunking a claim:
We must ascertain that the debunk is solid and irrefutable and that factual evidence or a credible source is captured in the fact-check. More explicitly we have redacted and rephrased the following from the principles of the International Fact-Checking Network, IFCN (Many other guidelines for fact-checking are available online.):
- Evidence means hard facts – proven, verified, transparent, accountable information and methods of finding it.
- Ensure that, as a rule, your organization sets out in your fact checks evidence that supports the claim as well as evidence that undermines it.
- Ensure that your organization always assesses the merits of any evidence found using the same standards applied to claims of a similar nature regardless of who made the claim.
- Ensure that, where possible, your organization seeks to contact those who made the claim to seek supporting evidence noting that; (i) This is often not possible with online claims, (ii) If the person who made the claim fails to reply this should not imp to reply this should not impede the fact check, (iii) If a speaker adds caveats to the claim the fact checker should be free to continue checking the original claim, (iv) Fact checkers may not wish to contact the person who made the claim for safety or other legitimate reasons.
- Ensure that in your fact checks your organization does not; (i) Make assumptions, without evidence, about the intentions of the person who made the claim, (ii) Take statements made by any source at their word without checking, (iii) Accept the findings of any data source, official or otherwise, without 1st checking their methodology, (iv) Include a significant amount of partisan or loaded language.
- Encourage readers to send in claims to check while making clear what readers can legitimately expect will be fact checked and what is not fact checkable.
Selection of a Claim:
Of priority in determining whether to investigate any piece of mis-information is the significance of the claim, that is, will the claim cause or lead to any of the following:-
- Physical harm – including medical harm, any threat of physical violence to an individual or group, conflict within a community etc.
- Harm to mental health – including any claims that may lead to anxiety, stress or fear
- Distortion of the political system – political smear campaigns – campaigns against political parties or individuals
- Distortion of the justice system – including mis information relating to ongoing court cases and judgements or those involved in them
- Any threat to fairness and social cohesion – this includes anything that strengthens the belief in stereotypes about people or groups and and could relate to gender, religion, ethnicity, race, ability etc
- Financial and practical harm – including financial loss including scams and identity theft or impersonation – those kind of things
- Harm to business, the economy and to development – including harm to any individual company, any existing or proposed economic policy such as those that may be promoted or critiqued in political campaigns
- Harm to international relations – including misinformation about Kenya’s relationships with other countries, institutions or charges against any countries with which Kenya or prominent Kenyans have relationships
- Conspiracy theories and any claim that distorts our understanding of the world.