The event was hosted by the Department of Media Studies and Journalism (MSJ), ULAB. Mr Zafar Sobhan, Editor of Dhaka Tribune, attended the program as the Chief Guest while Ms Julie Nickles, Cultural Affairs Officer, US Embassy Dhaka was present as the Guest of Honor.
The welcome speech was delivered by Prof Imran Rahman, Special Advisor, BoT, ULAB, who emphasised on the event’s significance by letting the audience know that there are only 4-5 university-based fact-checking websites worldwide and FactWatch is now one of them. He also raised the importance about fact-checking in this era of social media.
Following Prof Rahman’s speech, a short video on FactWatch and its activities was shown. This was followed up by Ms Julie Nickles speech. Ms Nickles spoke about how crucial fact-checking is at the moment in both the United States and Bangladesh. She wished that both journalists and students in Bangladesh increase their fact-checking ability and “play a crucial role in fact-checking for the upcoming election”. She also thanked ULAB on behalf of the Embassy for launching a bilingual fact-checking website.
The Chief Guest, Mr Zafar Sobhan, followed next, speaking about the advantages of having a fact-checking website in contemporary times. He mentioned that information is much easier to obtain now compared to the 1980s, when there was only a state-run television and a couple of local newspapers in Bangladesh. But today, in a time of the unprecedented proliferation of media, with just a click on a button anyone can access uncountable news sources worldwide from the web. Hence, the negative aspects of having so many information sources is that facts are not as authentic or verified as before. He confessed that sometimes in the heat of the moment, newspapers who do fact-check can publish error-filled news, even while some newspapers do not follow proper fact-checking rules. However, he envisions FactWatch as an authentic source where readers can always crosscheck with the website to verify a news item, whether and how
far it is true or authentic. Wrapping up, he expressed his delight and pride in the launch of such a forward-thinking venture in Bangladesh by a university.
Afterwards, all the guests and management of ULAB, along with the FactWatch team, joined together to launch the FactWatch website, followed by Prof Jude Genilo handing over crests to the guests.
The Vote of Thanks was delivered by Prof H. M. Jahirul Haque, where he acknowledged the efforts of everybody involved in this project. He also stated that ULAB’s relationship with the US Embassy and the American Center was closer than ever.
FactWatch (fact-watch.org) is a fact-checking website run by ULAB that is focused on deciphering fraudulent statements and disinformation in Bangladesh’s socio-political environment. In a bid to do that, FactWatch analyses the statements made by public figures and politicians, information about health, environment and science that spread through the social media and the news items published by the mainstream media with the aim to promote awareness among the general public through our journalistic skills and in the long run help them make well-informed decisions.