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Afghan media outlet Etilaatroz launch fact-checking unit as a result of Afghan Witness partnership

The Etilaatroz team have been working steadily with AW to learn fact-checking methodologies and develop open source skills.


4 Apr 2024

Image: Austin Distel via Unsplash This week, Afghan media outlet Etilaatroz launched a new fact-checking unit supported by Afghan Witness (AW). 

The unit – named ‘Sanjah’, a Dari/Farsi word meaning to measure, check or verify – will be staffed by a team of experienced journalists who will work to verify the accuracy of claims from public figures, media, and other institutions and organisations in Afghanistan.

“The Afghan information space is complex and challenged by ongoing efforts to weaken it through the spread of mis- and disinformation,” said AW’s Director of Impact and Engagement, Olivia Pirie-Griffiths.“The launch of Sanjah is a testament to the Etilaatroz team and their long-standing commitment to reporting news with reliability and integrity. It has been a privilege for Afghan Witness to collaborate with Etilaatroz through the delivery of open source training, mentoring and financial support in the months leading up to Sanjah’s launch.” 

CIR’s Afghan Witness project was established in late 2021 after the Taliban took control of the country. Since then, the team has been working steadily to identify and counter mis- and disinformation, as well as exposing human rights violations with a focus on those carried out against ethnic minorities and women and children. AW also collaborates with numerous Afghan organisations, sharing skills and data, and conducting joint investigations and projects that seek to strengthen Afghanistan’s information environment. 

This collaboration with Etilaatroz, an organisation founded in 2012 by CEO, Zaki Daryabi, has been possible under AW’s grants program, which supports a number of Afghan organisations to conduct research, investigations and other projects such as this one, with open source methodologies and techniques at their core. 

Commenting on the launch of Sanjah, Zaki Daryabi, Etilaatroz’s CEO, said: “We will be working to identify and debunk false information circulating online and in the public sphere, carefully examine claims, provide readers with a clear understanding of their truthfulness, and hold public figures and organisations accountable for the information they share.

“We believe that this new initiative will be a valuable resource for our readers and for the community as a whole. By providing access to accurate information, we hope to foster a more informed and engaged citizenry.”

In Afghanistan’s online environment, mis– and disinformation is widespread. AW analysts have frequently seen old content shared out-of-context or reframed as new, as well as more deliberate attempts to deceive in the form of fake news accounts impersonating Afghan outlets. 

Women have been particularly affected by the shrinking online space: a report published by AW in November looks at online gender hate speech targeting politically active Afghan women, and notes a tripling of abusive posts between the period measured in 2021 and that same period measured a year later. Similarly, a recent report published by AW covers the significant influx of fake accounts that seek to undermine the voices of LGBTQIA+ activists and other politically active figures who share different views to the Taliban. 

“At a time when Afghan women face dire restrictions to their day-to-day participation, the internet has provided a space for Afghan women to take part in their communities and campaign for their rights. Ensuring mis- and disinformation is identified and countered has never been more important,” said AW’s Pirie-Griffiths. 

Etilaatroz’s team have been working steadily with the AW team to learn fact-checking methodologies and open source advanced search and verification techniques. The launch of Sanjah is a result of their continued effort and commitment to journalistic integrity, in the face of an ever-challenging information environment. 

AW will continue to work with the team to support and contribute to Sanjah’s success.

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