Latin American fact-checking pioneers emphasize importance of access to information

Latin American journalists and editors gathered in Buenos Aires, Argentina earlier this month to share experiences and successful methods for producing a kind of investigative journalism that has been growing in the region: fact-checking.

During the regional meeting known as Latam Chequea, hosted from June 7 to 8 by Argentina-based Chequeado, media professionals participated in discussions and exchanged ideas about the use of tools, fact-checking in electoral contexts, strategies to engage the audience and ways to measure impact.

Participants traveled across Latin America, but some also came from the United States, Africa and Europe. Latin American media outlets represented included Animal Político of Mexico, Ojo Público of Peru, Plaza Pública and Nómada of Guatemala, La Silla Vacía of Colombia, Aos Fatos and Agência Lupa of Brazil, and more.

For two days following the meeting of Latin American fact-checking journalists, professionals from 41 countries continued to meet in Buenos Aires as part of the third Global Fact-checking Summit known as Global Fact 3. As part of that conference, participants planned to produce a code of principles to strengthen and expand the practice, highlighting commitment to nonpartisanship and transparency in relation to the methodology used, sources consulted and financing of the work, according to Poynter.

This first Latam Chequea took place in 2014, a conference of fact-checking pioneers working on projects in various stages of development, as recalled by Cecilia Derpich, research unit coordinator at El Mercurio of Chile, in a blog post for the event. For some, the meeting gave birth to new fact-checking projects, as in the case of Agência Lupa.

Two years later, these fact-checking organizations met again in Buenos Aires, greater in number and in professionalism, as Derpich noted.

For Laura Zommer, executive director and journalist with Chequeado, fact-checking is essential for citizens to be well-informed and to effectively participate in public debate.

“It is fundamental that the information circulated is true and is accompanied by the necessary context for understanding. It is imperative that anyone can easily access the best information possible so they can actively participate in discussions of public interest, and fact-checking is an essential tool for this,” Zommer said to the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.

A study released at the event, “Chequeado as a referee: Analysis of the impact of fact-checking in Argentina during an election year,” found that fact-checking has become a reference not only for journalists, but also for citizens.

Voters told the researchers that the information provided by organizations like Chequeado can help when evaluating political candidates and their speeches. Moreover, respondents said they had more confidence in organizations who specialized in fact-checking than in traditional media.

Yet, despite the success of fact-checking and the dissemination of new projects, journalists who work with fact-checking still face challenges, as pointed out by Chequeado’s coordinator of special projects, Olivia Sohr.

“One of the biggest problems is access to information. And the presentation of good data from the State,” Sohr said. “When this information is not accessible or does not occur, it is very difficult to carry out the work, since it depends exclusively on alternative sources, such as universities, think tanks, NGOs, private consultants, which generally have lower capacity to collect data.”

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.