In Freedom House’s recent ranking of worldwide press freedom, Morocco came in 147 out of 197 countries. Although a new constitution, passed in 2011, supposedly guarantees freedom of the press, the government has been slow to implement the reforms that would support that right. Clear but unofficial red lines remain in place on discussing the monarchy, the disputed territory of Western Sahara, and Islam, and so journalists walk a fine line.
But a Moroccan nongovernmental organization called Capdema, which receives a grant from the U.S. State Department, hopes to shake up the political and journalistic status quo by creating a website that will check the claims of government officials. In doing so, Capdema will join a number of new such services across the globe; according to data assembled by Duke University’s Reporters’ Lab, more than 80 have been established since 2010.
The trend kicked off in the United States, largely in response to the domestic media’s failure to properly vet the Bush administration’s claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in the run-up to the 2003 invasion. There are now three main fact-checking organizations based in the United States: FactCheck.org, founded in 2003 in affiliation with the University of Pennsylvania; PolitiFact, created in 2007 by the Tampa Bay Times; and The Fact Checker, created in 2007 by The Washington Post. Countless local newspapers and television channels run their own on-air fact-checking programs, especially during election seasons.
In the United States, fact-checking really came into its own during the 2012 presidential election, as fact-checkers exposed misleading claims by the Barack Obama campaign about Mitt Romney’s business record and numerous Romney claims about the economy and the bailout of the auto industry. At one point, Romney’s pollster even declared that “we're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” And both the campaigns hired designated spokespeople to handle queries from the fact-checkers. Stories about the impact of the checks appeared on international media, spreading the idea overseas.
Now this new form of
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