Albany has been working in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to improve how the public receives international news through a project funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office—with the specific goal of enhancing fact checking skills.
In the Central Asian former-Soviet republics, as is the case in many parts of the world, a combination of self-censorship and low professional standards continues to prevent progress in the media sector. The effects of biased and inaccurate information are exacerbated by low levels of media literacy, with audiences having little awareness of the role or responsibilities of the media in a democratic society.
Albany developed a training program that builds upon a traditional journalist training curriculum—including basic instruction on proper news reporting, distinguishing fact from opinion, and seeking confirmation and alternative view points from reliable Russian language sources, emphasizing fact checking. Debunking and fact checking techniques were explored in great depth, with trainers from well-known Russian language media teaching participants how to use certain web-based tools to verify the accuracy of photos, videos and text. Finally, we instructed participants on how to use online open-source information, crowd sourcing and other digital tools to unearth the truth and create a more comprehensive picture of events.
By working with key editorial desks and a ‘train the trainer’ model, Albany has been able to significantly upskill regional media stakeholders and generate the capacity for continued international best practice within these organisations. A continuous learning and follow up element to the project has enabled the techniques learned to be thoroughly embedded across the editorial practices, with training material translated into video formats and training manuals to consolidate understanding. Overall, we have seen a strong rise in professional standards and an increased ability for reliable, accurate reporting.