Rabiu Alhassan on founding a fact-checking agency in Ghana

Fresh out of graduating from the Mundus Journalism programme in London this year, Rabiu launched straight into setting up a fact-checking organisation in Accra, Ghana. Here we talk to him about his Mundus experience and his goals for GhanaFact and the 2020 elections in Ghana.

2019.11.25 | Ellie Sellwood

Rabiu Alhassan Mundus Journalism alumnus and founder of GhanaFact.

Rabiu Alhassan has been busy since graduating from our London specialisation in Business and Finance in July this year. A few months on, and he is already the founder and managing editor of GhanaFact, the only full-time fact-checking organisation in his country - a feat which he says would not have been possible without the help of Professor Jane Singer who teaches Innovation in Journalism at City University.

Like so many of our alumni around the world, Rabiu’s journalism career began before the Mundus programme. Rabiu tells us that it was during his BA studies in Political Science at the University of Ghana that he first became involved in journalism. “I became a volunteer for student media. I later became the student coordinator for my University’s student media, and I covered the 2008 elections in Ghana as a volunteer reporter,” he says. 

After finishing his BA, Rabiu, like other young people in Ghana, was supposed to undertake 1 year of National Service, but he landed a job at Citi FM instead.

Whilst at Citi FM, Rabiu was moved to the Business and Finance desk and started working on a major investigation about Ghana’s ongoing power crisis which took him as far as Turkey and Lebanon. In 2015, Rabiu made the decision to move to TV3 as a financial journalist and news anchor. It was after about 2 years in this job that he applied for the Mundus Journalism programme, choosing the London specialisation in Business in Finance.

Whilst studying at City University, Rabiu took a class in innovation in journalism with Professor Jane Singer and was introduced to new tools and approaches to fact-checking. It was then that he started working on the fact-checking project that would become GhanaFact. With the help of Jane, Rabiu put together a proposal and used his time in London to check out the industry players.

“The problem of misinformation is not just a problem in Ghana, it’s a global problem,” he says, “there have been quite clear developments in the US and in Europe, of course, with misinformation being used to sway public opinion.” “It’s the same in Ghana,” he continues, “but in Ghana our politicians have always used it, mostly on traditional media platforms, and now they have social media to add. So, there is a real need for cross-checking but there is just not enough fact-checking being done.”

Whilst in London, Rabiu says “I worked on applying journalistic skills to fact-checking, inspired by Brazil and other organisations in Africa. I thought to myself why not do something in that regard, especially as Ghana will have elections next year.”

Fast forward a few months and Rabiu has set up GhanaFact, the only full-time fact-checking service in Ghana and now has 3 non-executive directors including himself, Jane and Dr. Wunpini Fatimata Mohammed a Professor at Pennsylvania State University, along with 5 writers.

Looking to the future, Rabiu says, “2020 is going to be a big year as Ghana will go to the polls, and I want GhanaFact to help curb the disinformation. We’re going to partner with political organisations to fact-check information to ensure that the public isn’t swayed by fake news. But we’re not just going to fact-check politics, we’re also going to fact-check the healthcare sector, to make sure people are informed about health too.”

When it comes to his work, Rabiu says that although there are new tools available such as AI, AI can’t provide the nuances needed for fact-checking work. GhanaFact hopes to use AI plus traditional journalistic skills.

So, what’s next for Rabiu? Well he’s currently working for GhanaFact on a voluntary basis whilst he secures funding.

If you’d like to follow Rabiu’s work, please visit the GhanaFact website or follow the organisation on Twitter.

Would you like to join the Mundus Journalism programme and join a network of journalists just like Rabiu? Find out everything you need to know about applying, here, and send in your application before 10th January, 2020.