Editor’s Note: The following interview was conducted by Yahya Echattoui. Also, you can check Tahaqaq’s website by clicking on the following link: Tahaqaq.ma
Casablanca, Morocco- Fake news is undoubtedly becoming a real challenge for the whole world with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is true that in times like these, front-line efforts should be focussed on curbing the spread of the virus, but dealing with fake news matters! If governments ignore the damage this scourge could make, people and governments themselves will suffer on many fronts.
Like most countries around the world affected by the pandemic, Morocco has taken a plethora of measures to deal with the situation wisely, doing the right thing, and choosing the right time to do it. Speaking of wisdom, inspired long before the virus went viral, a young Moroccan had a great idea on his way to Morocco from India, where he assisted to a summit on social media with Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation -ITEC. The young man, Mr. Ghasan Benchiheb, a former journalist and a current social media expert, thought of reinforcing Morocco’s efforts in combatting COVID-19 by launching a new initiative dedicated to fact-checking, to debunk rampant Fake news, one that goes by the Arabic name Tahaqaq.
To have a good idea of his work and how Tahaqaq operates, I asked Mr. Ghassan a couple of questions meant to highlight the benefits of this initiative amid the current juncture, deemed “a war” by Moroccan officials.
“Tahaqaq’s main focus now is fighting fake news related to the spread of COVID-19”, Mr. Ghassan says.
With a work like this one person will need a lot of energy and time to do this work. A team is a very crucial part in making Tahaqaq active and credible every day.
“We received more than 150 volunteer applications to work for Tahaqaq, and we primarily chose 10 to begin our work”, Ghassan says.
Their main source to debunk fake news is Morocco’s official sources,” such as ministries and government officials.” Mr. Ghassan adds.
“We then announce the verified news to our audience and those in our network of more than 2000 people on WhatsApp and Telegram,” Ghassan went on further to say.
“As I already highlighted, the effect of fake news is really harmful. That harm could spread over to people’s thinking and it could cause them fear,” Ghassan added.
Ghassan hopes that “this initiative will be a to-go online tool for news fact-checking.”
Amid the current worldwide pandemic, it is high time that we all take fake news as our target, analyzing, and fact-checking every single moment every piece of news that pops up in our screens more than ever. The spread of COVID-19 has already taught us that it is a must to be armed with media literacy and critical thinking as ammunition to successfully win this war against the unseen enemy, COVID-19.
(Story by Yahya Echattoui; Editing by Idriss Benarafa)