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Fact Check: Critical Thinking Journalism for Youths program launched

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Posted: Monday, November 8, 2021. 12:27 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Youths from opposite corners of the Caribbean are being recruited to tackle an emergent and difficult problem – the spread of “fake news through traditional and social media outlets.

Disinformation and misinformation, or information that is intentionally designed to mislead the reader, are a serious threat to democratic institutions. The spread of such “fake news” has eroded trust in health care systems, exacerbated political divides, and harmed societal institutions. The dissemination of false narratives around Covid-19 and vaccinations illustrates that disinformation campaigns should be viewed as a whole-of-society problem. The rapid acceptance of social media has led to a rise in information-sharing among users, with fake news becoming a component of our digital daily lives.

The U.S. Embassy, Port of Spain, in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy, Belmopan, each country’s Ministry of Education and the Jamaican-based firm SmartTech has launched an initiative known as “Fact Check – Critical Thinking Journalism for Youths”, to support media literacy and combat the spread of disinformation in Trinidad and Tobago and Belize.

The inaugural cohort of 50 participants between the ages of 15 – 25 years – 30 from the Republic, 20 from Belize – will be educated through a curriculum, using both plenary and self-paced, on the social and economic impacts of disseminating fake news. They will also learn critical techniques on effective journalism.

Jamie Hoyte, Director of SmartTerm Education Management, explained that participants may be youths working in media houses, or studying journalism, communications, marketing and similar disciplines.

Participants will be selected by the Ministries and applications will be taken at the website www.factcheckctj.com.

At the launch today representatives of each organization spoke to the importance of combating fake news, with Kiran Maharaj, President of the Media Institute of the Caribbean and co-founder of the Caribbean Investigative Journalism Network , suggesting media houses, Governments and others will need to get creative to tackle the issue, which has lasting debilitating effects socially, emotionally and even economically.

The program begins on March 7, 2022.

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