Journalists in Madagascar have created Vaovao Check, an independent platform designed to combat disinformation. The platform’s name means “Verified Information.” It aims to counteract the spread of manipulated information and hate speech on social media and traditional media. This effort is the result of Actions Médias Francophones, Transparency International, and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung’s years of hard work and deliberation. It was launched just a few days before the start of the presidential election campaign.
Vaovao Check emerged from a pressing need, as explained by Lova Rabary, the president of Actions Médias Francophones Madagascar and a renowned journalist known for her commitment to information verification on the island. “Madagascar grapples with disinformation daily. The issue has been amplified by social media, especially with Facebook, which many Malagasy people have almost free access to. We realized that journalists were overwhelmed by this disinformation. Therefore, we thought that journalism should reclaim the information landscape,” she explained.
However, the media landscape in Madagascar is unique, acknowledges Lova Rabary. “In Madagascar, media owners are deeply involved in political matters, the country’s economic life, and commercial affairs. Sometimes, journalists don’t have complete freedom to fact-check certain events. That’s why we thought it would be good to have an independent platform that could verify facts,” she added.
Twenty-five journalists, the majority of whom have received specific training for the past year under the consortium’s guidance, will work on producing articles, podcasts, and videos for the Vaovao Check website. They will scrutinize existing publications, which may come from fellow journalists in mainstream media and beyond, explained Juana Malalasoa, in charge of the Malina investigative project at Transparency International Initiative Madagascar.
“It could also be a publication by a citizen that leads to hysteria or promotes something detrimental to access to information or general knowledge. We will analyze the accuracy of the information and publish what we believe to be true, supported by evidence,” said Juana Malalasoa.
Launched at a pivotal moment in the country’s history, Vaovao Check aims to continue its mission beyond the elections, persisting in its efforts to raise awareness among citizens about the challenges posed by mass disinformation.