April 02, 2024

VRT announces factcheck marathon ahead of elections

As the June elections approach and the campaigning is about to begin, political statements and promises are flying around our ears. But is the data used by candidates and parties accurate? And can we always believe a campaign or are we sometimes misled by images and photos? In the coming weeks, VRT NWS will step up a gear to fact-check political statements together with other news editors from Flanders, French-speaking Belgium and the Netherlands.

As of the 27th of May, VRT NWS, Knack, Factcheck.Vlaanderen, deCheckers, RTBF, Algemeen Dagblad, Pointer (KRO/NCRV) and Nieuwscheckers join forces for the first-ever factcheck marathon of the Low Countries! The inspiration comes from the Netherlands, where three editions have already taken place in previous elections.

Journalists from eight different newsrooms joining forces to fact-check together, that is really unprecedented. And it is necessary to do so, because eight out of ten Flemish people consider disinformation a problem for our society. In election times, opinions are allowed to fly back and forth and clash with each other considerably, but preferably on the basis of real facts and figures.
Griet De Craen, editor-in-chief VRT NWS

During the factcheck marathon, journalists from the different editorial offices will work together at VRT in Brussels. Every day, they will make at least two fact-checks in text, audio and video. These stories will be featured on the different news platforms of the participating media. The focus lies on themes that play an important role in the Flemish, federal and European elections. From purchasing power to security, from climate to migration.

Every day, with a driven team of about 20 journalists, we look at the statements of our politicians and action groups. This could be something they say in a television or radio studio or what they share on social media. By joining forces for over two weeks, we reach a much larger audience and can refute or clarify incorrect or misleading information more quickly. And we do this on as many platforms as possible: from television to social media.
Luc Van Bakel, check editor-in-chief VRT NWS

One of the partners joining in Brussels is Dutch public broadcaster KRO-NCRV's journalistic investigative programme Pointer. They are involved in a larger collaboration with VRT in the fight against Dutch-language disinformation.

There is a lot at stake in the European elections. It revolves around big issues like climate change and migration - topics where misinformation lurks. That is why we think it is important to organise a factcheck marathon in the run-up to the elections so that voters can cast their votes based on the facts. By collaborating with AD and Nieuwscheckers, as well as with Belgian colleagues at VRT, Factcheck.Vlaanderen, Knack and deCheckers, we can have maximum impact with our fact-checks.
René Sommer, editor-in-chief of journalism KRO-NCRV

Via deCheckers.be, Flemish citizens can also request fact-checks themselves or signal political statements they would like to have checked. All fact-checks from the marathon will appear on the VRT NWS website and app, on social media and in election programmes on radio and television.

Major international cooperation on disinformation

Within the Flemish-Dutch cooperation 'BENEDMO', VRT joins forces around factchecking. This collaboration will be continued with funding and support from the European Commission. Over the next three years, BENEDMO will focus even more on international cooperation between BENEDMO fact-checkers and other EDMO hubs to combat disinformation. These investigations will result in news stories that will be brought to the Flemish and Dutch public in an innovative way. VRT NWS coordinates the international cooperation between various factcheckers to combat disinformation. That result is visible in the various news stories on vrtnws.be. In addition to the operation of the check editors, VRT is thus also expanding its own activities on media literacy.

BENEDMO has already built a network of 200 disinformation experts from the Flanders and the Netherlands over the past two years. This allows factcheckers, academics, media literacy organisations and other relevant social actors to easily exchange experiences, practical knowledge and expertise. Within the project, several tools were developed for factcheckers, journalists and the general public, such as the Factcheck database and a tool to efficiently create fact-checking templates. BENEDMO also worked on an overview of effective interventions to increase media literacy. Monthly fact-check overviews were published and larger fact-checking collaborations were set up, for example around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

BENEDMO is part of a larger European project (EDMO) in which several countries work together to tackle disinformation in different languages.