How to detect fake news in Ghana’s media

The spread of fake news is on the rise across the world thanks to the evolution of technology, and increased internet use. Like never before, there is a high price to pay now for one’s gullibility, lack of diligence and due process.

As research has shown, the creators and propagators of misinformation and disinformation are motivated by one or a combination of three factors, (a) profit, (b) power, and (c) fame. In Ghana, the chief propagators of fake and misleading news are the Presidency (the Offices of the President and Vice President), senior government officials, political parties and their supporters, media organisations, journalists, and social media content creators.

Studies have revealed that people generally react to information in three ways, (a) total acceptance, (b) partial acceptance, and (c) outright rejection. It is important for readers not to believe every story they see in the traditional media and social media until they are convinced about its authenticity. If a news report is too good and controversial to be true then it is not true. You owe it to yourself and the world not to believe or trust any news report published in the media until you have verified it from a credible source.

As the world marks International Fact-checking Day on April 2, 2024, I would share with you some proven steps that you can follow to detect fake news in Ghana’s media, particularly as the country prepares for the 2024 Presidential and Parliamentary election scheduled for December 7.

#1: Read beyond the headlines

Headlines are the eyes of news stories. They operate as invitation cards. They either draw you into the story or drive you away from it. In either way, a headline is an important part of a story. Many media organisations are compelled to create sensational headlines out of non-sensational facts due to the need to increase one’s audience base to be able to raise revenue through advertisement. You will need to protect your sanity and guard your mental health as a news consumer by refraining from drawing hasty and false conclusions merely by reading the headlines of stories. My advice to you is to try to read beyond the headlines. In other words, read the entire story if you find it interesting enough and often you would realise that there is a great disconnect between that sensational headline and the story itself.  Make this your mantra, ‘I won’t believe the headline until I have read the entire story.’ Remember: the devil in every situation is in the details. Learn to read beyond headlines.

#2: Check the author of the story

Every credible news report published in the media must have an identified author or reporter. Where the author’s byline is not contained anywhere in the story, see this as a sign that you may be trudging through a disinformation landmine.  Do not believe whatever you are reading until you have verified it from a more reliable source. Research has shown that many of the fake stories that went viral on social media had no identified authors. However, in situations where the author’s byline is present in the story, you still need to go a step further by conducting a background check on the writer to find out if s/he is a credible reporter or has had a credibility issue in the past. The caution here is for you not to assume that because the story has an identified author then it is credible. Far from it. Some so-called ‘credible’ journalists have become sources of fake news due to their sheer negligence and lack of due diligence. What is true is that a credible journalist always endeavours to verify his or her facts before putting them out. This is not a one-off responsibility. It should be a continuous exercise.

#3: Check out other credible sources

We can all agree that there are some media organisations in Ghana whose reports are believed than others. This does not mean that trusted media organisations do not make mistakes. You would be disappointed to learn that they do. The Ghana Television (GTV) station, managed by the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), the Daily Graphic newspaper, operated by the Graphic Communication Group, and the Ghanaian Times newspaper, managed by the Times Corporation are among some trusted public and private media organisations in the country. However, in 2016, GTV, which prides itself as the ‘station of the nation’ shockingly announced the death of a former South African President, Thabo Mbeki.

The State broadcaster relying on a story published on the website, a cloned version of the trusted South African media organisation,, broadcast the false information to the chagrin of its viewers. Oh yes, Ghana’s foremost media organisation fell for the lie and paid for its lack of due diligence at the time. I am sure the managers of GTV have learnt some useful lessons from that disappointing experience back then. So, before you believe any news report that you chance on in the media, I would suggest you crosscheck it from the other credible and trusted media organisations in the country. I would encourage you to disregard any story which has not been published by any of these credible media organisations. Also, do not share these unverified stories on your social media handles else you would be equally guilty of spreading fake information.

#4: Look for supporting sources in the story

Let me be clear on this: any story whose source or sources want to remain anonymous throughout is not credible and worth your time. While it is normal to entertain the occasional quoting of anonymous sources, this should be the exception rather than the norm in a respected newsroom. A credible news story should be attributed to identifiable sources whose statements or actions prompted it in the first place. These sources should not be too difficult to locate in a story whose foundation is based on the originating facts. Do not spend precious time reading a story whose supporting sources you are unable to identify. Just disregard that story.

#5: Check the date the story was published

Trusting a news report in the media is suicidal, especially in this Generative AI era where everything has been made possible with the use of technology. Before you read a story, first check the date it was published. Remember: context is everything. Stories are making the rounds on social media that were published some years back. It would surprise you to know that those sharing these stories today are unaware they were published years ago. So, why are these stories being shared now when they are old? Motivation is everything. Find out what is motivating those sharing the stories and you would be glad you did. Ghana is currently facing a worsening power crisis with intermittent power outages recorded across the country. Already, many Ghanaians have asked the government of President Nana Akufo-Addo and the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) to release a load-shedding timetable, which would help them to plan their lives effectively.

The ECG has repeatedly maintained the recent power outages were caused by 630 distribution transformers which require “replacement and upgrade.” In the second week of March 2024, a load-shedding timetable purportedly released by the ECG went viral on social media in Ghana, heightening the concerns of Ghanaians about a possible return to the dark days of ‘dumsor’ recorded between late 2012 to 2015. However, a critical review of the purported load management schedule revealed that it was released in 2023 and not in 2024. A second timetable surfaced later, but unlike the first one, it was shown to have been doctored. The ECG has described the purported schedule as “fake” and has urged Ghanaians to disregard it. Similarly, there are claims fact-checked years back that are resurfacing on social media as the country prepares for the election in December 2024. It is always important for you to check the date the story you are reading was published before deciding to pay any heed to the content. Always remember that context is everything.

#6: Check for the virality of the story

Research has shown that many of the stories that went viral were found to be fake, false or misleading and were created by people motivated by fame, power and profit. This is so true. When the Vice President and the 2024 Presidential candidate of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), Dr Mahamudu Bawumia addressed Ghanaians in February 2024, some images with claims allegedly made by him went viral. In one such image that surfaced on social media, Dr Bawumia was reported to have said that head porters (locally called Kayayei) use Bluetooth these days to transport goods instead of head pans due to the government’s digitisation efforts. The claim was found to be false since a content analysis conducted by fact-checkers showed Dr Bawumia did not comment attributed to him. The caution here is that always be on the lookout for any viral stories and when you find one, you do not have to believe the content until you have verified their authenticity from some credible and trusted sources in the country.


The fake news business in Ghana is becoming more profitable with the passing of each day. The earlier we rallied consensus against it, the better it would be for everyone – government and citizens. This business can be dismantled when the citizens are educated about its operations - the creation and spread of false information. It is suggested that any effort to combat misinformation and disinformation in the country should not be left to the government alone. The reason is that some appointees of the government are among the top propagators of false information in the country and we cannot trust them to do a good job in this area. 

We would need the government to partner with independent fact-checking organisations to hold its appointees, opposition political parties, journalists, and the public responsible for false information shared in the media. Let us remember that the weapons of misinformation and disinformation can only be disarmed by truth and fact.


The author, A. Kwabena Brakopowers, is a private legal practitioner, journalist, and essayist who has written extensively on education, international relations, legal matters, social, political, and economic issues of major concern to all Ghanaians. You can reach him at

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.