Istinomer

Organization: Istinomer
Applicant: Rasa Nedeljkov
Assessor: Ivana Jeremic
Edits made by the organization after this assessment

IFCN Staff wrote:



Conclusion and recommendations
on 17-Sep-2018 (1 year ago)

Ivana Jeremic wrote:

Istinomer has proved its intention to improve their transparency and quality of work. There is a clear progress since the last year assessment. They added new information on the web page such as biographies and the list of authors, but also donors and new ratings. I would suggest that the board accept Istinomer's application.

on 17-Sep-2018 (1 year ago)

Ivana Jeremic recommended Accept


Section 1: Organization

Criterion 1a
Proof of registration
Evidence required: Please provide evidence that the signatory is a legally-registered organization set up exclusively for the purpose of fact-checking or the distinct fact-checking project of a recognized media house or research institution.

Istinomer
22-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Istinomer was established by the non profit organization Center for Research, Transparency and Accountability, CRTA. It is registered in the Serbian Registry of Public Media [Registar javnih glasila]. 

See the link: http://pretraga.apr.gov.rs/javnaglasila/PublicMediaBasicData.aspx?beid=3715&rnd=8FD269C0FB71CA88365D1D3A23DC6BE5DC2F516A and document confirming registration. 

This registry does not keep record of the purpose of certain media, including Istinomer. However, Istinomer is officially and publicly defined as a fact checking portal, dedicated to fact checking and rating politicians' and public officials' claims, which is Istinomer's core business. Istinomer is also publishing fact based analysis on Serbian politics and finance as well as interviews and video features, timelines and other forms of journalistic pieces.


Files Attached
picture_as_pdf 1a 2 - Istinomer_s r... (923 KB)
Ivana Jeremic Assessor
12-Sep-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Istinomer is registered in the Serbian Registry of Public Media. Specific data about the purpose of media and field of reporting is not collected by that institution. However, Istinomer's website clearly shows that they're dedicated to fact-checking but also have some kind of other media products.


done_all 1a marked as Fully compliant by Ivana Jeremic.

Criterion 1b
Archive
Evidence required: Insert a link to the archive of fact checks published in the previous three months. If you do not collect all fact checks in one place, please explain how the fact-checking is conducted by your organization.

Istinomer
22-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Archive of published fact checks could be searched using different filters, including actors, type of fact check, ratings, key words and period of time. You may find all the fact checks published in the last three months at the following link:

https://www.istinomer.rs/pregled_ocena/period,3_months/pstr,10/strana,1/

Ivana Jeremic Assessor
12-Sep-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Istinomer has been publishing reports on a regular basis every 2-6 days over the previous three months.


done_all 1b marked as Fully compliant by Ivana Jeremic.

Section 2: Nonpartisanship and Fairness

Criterion 2a
Body of work sample
Evidence required: Please share links to ten fact checks that better represent the scope and consistency of your fact-checking. Provide a short explanation of how your organization strives to maintain coherent standards across fact checks.

Istinomer
22-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

For the last nine years we applied highest professional standards and strict methodology in fact checking in order to ensure impartialness and objectivity and to preserve credibility. We strive to rate as many different politicians and public officials and we evaluated around 225 different claims from 45 public figures in 2017 and 2018. However, we are also aware that more then others we fact check current President Aleksandar Vucic, who was Prime Minister twice before his presidency. This is due to the fact that he is the most powerful person in the country and that he delivers public speeches on regular basis, presenting numerous facts which need to be examined for the sake of public interest. We have also launched website called Vucicomer (vucicomer.rs), which collects promises and ratings for President Vucic already published by Istinomer.

We pay attention that the claims we fact check are referring to the facts in public interest. Therefore, we focus on public officials, since they have the opportunity to exercise power and to use public funds, so they should be accountable to the public. Besides public officials, we also rate different opposition politicians’ statements and collects their promises, particularly during the election campaign. Political affiliations of the people we rate play no role in our fact checks, but verifiable facts only.

We also try to provide simple explanation for our conclusions and we tend to be open to our readers in cases when it is impossible to give rating, mostly due to the lack of official data.

Bellow you may find examples of 10 fact checks from 2017 and 2018:

http://www.istinomer.rs/ocena/3800/Privreda%20Srbije%20je%20bila%20sa%C4%8Duvana%20tokom%20devedesetih

http://www.istinomer.rs/ocena/3871/U%20poslednjih%2010%20godina%20raste%20izvoz%20u%20EU

http://www.istinomer.rs/ocena/3879/Dr%C5%BEava%20ispred%20autonomije%20univerziteta

http://www.istinomer.rs/ocena/3884/Nije%20bilo%20progona%20kosovskih%20Albanaca,%20nije%20bilo%20humanitarne%20katastrofe

http://www.istinomer.rs/ocena/3896/Er%20Srbija%20ne%20prima%20pomo%C4%87%20Vlade%20Srbije%20od%20februara%202016.%20godine

http://www.istinomer.rs/ocena/3928/Imali%20smo%20samo%20dva%20MiG-a%2029%20kad%20sam%20postao%20ministar%20odbrane

http://www.istinomer.rs/ocena/3943/Srbija%20imala%20priliv%20stranih%20investicija%20od%202,56%20milijardi%20dolara

http://www.istinomer.rs/ocena/4019/Dobit%20Aerodroma%20pre%20SNS%20nikad%20nije%20bila%20ispod%2016%20miliona%20evra

http://www.istinomer.rs/ocena/4050/Smrtnost%20penzionera%20u%20poslednje%20tri%20godine%20ve%C4%87a%20za%2028%20odsto

http://www.istinomer.rs/ocena/4077/Svega%20nekoliko%20dr%C5%BEava%20priznalo%20Kosovo%20od%202010.%20do%20leta%202012



Ivana Jeremic Assessor
12-Sep-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

According to the provided evidence, Istinomer fairly covers a variety of public officials and opposition leaders. Reports are based on facts such as statistics and documents.


done_all 2a marked as Fully compliant by Ivana Jeremic.

Criterion 2b
Nonpartisanship policy
Evidence required: Please share evidence of your policy preventing staff from direct involvement in political parties and advocacy organizations. Please also indicate the policy your organization has as a whole regarding advocacy and supporting political candidates.

Istinomer
22-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Istinomer is a member of the Press council, an independent, self-regulatory body that brings together publishers, owners of print and online media, news agencies and media professionals. As a member organization Istinomer is obliged to respect and to actively promote the Serbian Journalists' Code of Ethics. This code sets high standards for professional reporting, giving concrete guidelines necessary to ensure objectivity and fairness. One of the most important sections of the Code, section III, refers to the prevention of corruption and conflict of interest, including prevention from direct involvement of journalists in political parties and advocacy organizations:

“Work in PR and marketing agencies, lobbying agencies, public bodies and institutions, and political parties, is incompatible with the profession.

Guidelines:

• Participation in a political, electoral or a media campaign (political parties / companies, and other) cannot be performed simultaneously with journalistic / editorial work. The political activity of the family members of journalists / editors could also cause real or apparent conflict of interest.”

Files Attached
picture_as_pdf Serbian_Journalists_... (791 KB)
Ivana Jeremic Assessor
12-Sep-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Istinomer is obliged to respect the Serbian Journalist's Code of Ethics according to the applicant. However, I would suggest having an internal document as a guarantee that the organization and their staff are forbidden from working in political PR and political campaigns.


done_all 2b marked as Fully compliant by Ivana Jeremic.

Section 3: Transparency of Sources

Criterion 3a
Sources Policy
Please share a brief and public explanation (500 words max) of how sources are provided in enough detail that readers could replicate the fact check. If you have a public policy on how you find and use sources for your fact-checking, it should be shared here.

Istinomer
22-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

First and probably the most important element in our every fact check is the claim. We witnessed many cases when quotes were not transcribed properly. Therefore, we tend to use video materials to have original citation whenever possible in order to avoid misquoting and misinterpretation. When this is not possible, we use verbatim quotations published in different media outlets. We always contact people we rate in order to request further information about the given statement, whether it be comment or data and we always share the claim, quote we want to use in the text. This way they also have the opportunity to react in case their statement was misquoted or taken out of context. This is also important, because we believe that the burden of proof is on public officials who should be able to provide evidence for their assertion.

We also contact responsible institutions in a search for data, we use publicly available information and databases (both local and international) and we also use FOI requests to obtain certain documents, contracts, etc.

We are open and honest about the sources in our articles - we name the source for every fact, every number we use and note when it was obtained (if this is relevant, as some figures may change over time). We upload and link full documents obtained during the fact checking process, as well as entire responses acquired from the official institutions, as we believe our readers should be able to see the whole picture, including our inquiries and full information we received. Whenever it is possible we also link to different sources of information and publications cited in the text in order to enable readers to verify the data themselves and decide whether they agree with the rating or not.

We analyze reports of domestic and international institutions and think thanks, search credible databases and consult experts in different fields, university professors, NGOs. No conclusion in our fact checks could be made based on unnamed sources, as we use on-the-record sources and official documents.

We have developed internal methodology in this regard and all the members of the team underwent thorough training on how to find credible sources and make conclusion solely based on verifiable facts, which should also be transparent for our readers.

Ivana Jeremic Assessor
12-Sep-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Istinomer's reports include sources and documents which gives me the impression of transparency and objectivity.


done_all 3a marked as Fully compliant by Ivana Jeremic.

Section 4: Transparency of Funding & Organization

Criterion 4a
Funding Sources
Evidence required: Please link to the section where you publicly list your sources of funding (including, if they exist, any rules around which types of funding you do or don't accept), or a statement on ownership if you are the branch of an established media organization or research institution.

Istinomer
22-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Istinomer is initiative of the nongovernmental organization Center for Research, Transparency and Accountability, CRTA, which can be seen in registration document attached bellow. Since it was established, Istinomer received funds from projects CRTA was awarded by international donors and non profit organizations interested in strengthening democracy and accountability in Serbia. In order to preserve its credibility and non-partisanship and ensure unbiased reporting CRTA does not apply for any public funds in Serbia, i.e. funds from state or local budgets.

In 'About' section (https://www.istinomer.rs/o-istinomeru) we publish the list of donors for the last two years and the amount of money we were granted by each donor. In 2017 Istinomer received funds for different projects from Civil Right Defenders (7.720 euro), Olof Palme Center (26.000 euro) and Rockefeller Brothers Fund (26.250 euro). In 2018, Istinomer's work was supported by the projects from the German foreign ministry (48.666 euro) and Czech foreign ministry (27.550 euro). Funds were used for operational costs of Istinomer, video production, organization of training for journalists, conferences, panel discussions and other events. 

We also provide link to the CRTA's site, where all the financial audit reports of CRTA can be found  - http://crta.rs/sr/ko-smo-mi/ (page bottom)

Having in mind that most of independent media outlets in Serbia, which receive funds for different projects from international donors, are regularly being labeled as traitors and mercenaries in the tabloid press and by the public officials, our policy is that we do not publish the name of the donor bellow every text. This serves only to avoid any doubts in our objectivity, as we develop our editorial policy independently, we chose the projects we want to apply for and we make a pitch with our own ideas. No donor has ever requested or even suggested what articles or fact checks we should publish. On the other hand we are transparent about the sources of our funding and all the financial reports of CRTA are public, as already explained.

Files Attached
picture_as_pdf 1a 2 - Istinomer_s r... (923 KB)
Ivana Jeremic Assessor
12-Sep-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

There is a list of donors available on Istinomer's website and there is a link to the more detailed financial report.


done_all 4a marked as Fully compliant by Ivana Jeremic.

Criterion 4b
Staff
Evidence required: Please link to the section detailing all authors and key actors behind your fact-checking project with their biographies. You can also list the name and bios of the members of the editorial board, pool of experts, advisory board, etc. if your organization has those.

Istinomer
22-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Here you may find the page with journalists' biographies:

http://www.istinomer.rs/redakcija

Biographies are linked to their articles, mostly analyses. All the ratings are signed by Istinomer Team. This serves to show that we, as a team, stand behind every rating. In most cases one person is working on a fact check, while other(s) are editing and doing the double check. What is also important is that in most cases whole newsroom is involved in discussion regarding the rating itself, as we strive to be fair and coherent with our argumentation and to take our time to measure the nuances when deciding whether something is half true or mostly true, for example. Therefore, we believe it is a team work and it is a team decision. 

Ivana Jeremic Assessor
12-Sep-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Author's biographies and their reports are linked in a very transparent way.


done_all 4b marked as Fully compliant by Ivana Jeremic.

Criterion 4c
Contact
Evidence required: Please link to the section where readers can get in touch with the organization.

Istinomer
22-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago
Ivana Jeremic Assessor
12-Sep-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Istinomer has a 'contact' page with its phone number and email address. Readers can contact Istinomer through their website too.


done_all 4c marked as Fully compliant by Ivana Jeremic.

Section 5: Transparency of Methodology

Criterion 5a
Detailed Methodology
Evidence required: Please link to a section or article detailing the steps you follow for your fact-checking work.

Istinomer
22-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Our readers may find the general explanation on how we work and more details on our methodology and rating system in the 'About' section. We have three categories of ratings - truthfulness (scale from true to false), consistency (scale from consistent to inconsistent) and promises (scale from promise kept to not even started). All the ratings are followed by short and simple explanation, which enable readers to understand core methodology. We have recently updated the page with two new ratings, which were adopted after long debate as our experience showed there were claims that did not fit any of the existing ratings.

As explained before, we contact the actor whose claim is being fact checked and we search for official data. However, in number of cases, we receive no reply from the actor and we are unable to find official data necessary to establish the rating - in most cases there is no publicly available data and institutions are ignoring our queries, and there is no credible, independent source which could provide facts and data. When such cases occur, we would do the research, come to a dead end and quit, or in best case scenario, we would write an analysis, instead of rating. As this was not a rare case, we have decided not to quit, but to be open to our readers and explain the whole process, what we did, what we searched for, whom we contacted. We give all the information we have and explain what is missing and why and we rate the claim as unverifiable

Another rating which was recently added is misuse of facts - for the claims that are literally true, but come with the enormous but. They are usually taken out of context which is much more important for the whole picture rather than the fact itself.

Selection of the clams for the fact checks is made at the editorial meetings. We usually chose recent claims, important statements where there is a strong public interest. We never fact check claims only to prove someone was wrong. We examine something if we believe there is a demand for verified facts on certain topic. We may have assumption whether something is true or false before we commence fact checking. However, we never look for arguments that support our initial hypothesis, but we search for data and strong arguments which will enable us to make a firm conclusion based on facts.

Further details on our methodology and the step-by-step process are explained in the Criterion 3. Istinomer also has internal procedures regarding methodology that explain steps in creation of Istinomer's fact checks. These internal procedures oblige Istinomer journalists: to contact the actor for comment and/or data, to always refer to official information/research/statistical data (when possible), to contact the expert (individual or organization) for more information about researched topic, to follow the copyright rules (especially for photos), to make sure we are consistent in our own work over time and, etc.

Ivana Jeremic Assessor
12-Sep-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Istinomer has a clear methodology and criteria which was recently improved by adding new ratings. 


done_all 5a marked as Fully compliant by Ivana Jeremic.

Criterion 5b
Claim submissions
Evidence required: Please link to the page or process through which readers can submit claims to fact-check. If you do not allow this, please briefly explain why.

Istinomer
22-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

We are happy that our readers have various possibilities to get in touch with us and to suggest claims they wish to be examined and evaluated. We use the crowdsourcing tool “ProveriMe/fact check me” (http://www.istinomer.rs/clanak/1650/Proveri-me), which allows users to easily nominate statements for fact-checking. It is basically Google extension, which enables readers to select the claim in any article they are reading and to send it to our fact checkers.

Also, as a result of established cooperation with the Danas daily (danas.rs) and cable network, TV N1 (rs.n1info.com) Istinomer team succeed to post the "Istinomer button" on these websites and provide their readers with easy to use fact-checking function. Every page on Danas and N1 websites has a field readers can use to propose the topics and statements to Istinomer team. Although, this is a handy solution for readers, in many cases they still fail to send proper statements for fact checking, that fit our criteria and methodology. They either don't send quotes or send quotes where people are expressing their point of view, which we do not fact check. Therefore, most demands that are in accordance with our methodology that we receive from our readers come trough email or social media channels - Facebook and Twitter.

Ivana Jeremic Assessor
12-Sep-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

For the reasons of its credibility and respect among Serbian readers, Istinomer has partnered with other media outlets which give readers the opportunity to suggest claims to fact-check. Readers can also use social networks in order to share their suggestions and comments regarding fact-checks.


done_all 5b marked as Fully compliant by Ivana Jeremic.

Section 6: Open & Honest Corrections Policy

Criterion 6a
Corrections policy
Evidence required: Please link to the page with your policy to address corrections. If it is not public, please share your organization's handbook.

Istinomer
22-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

We have publicly admitted we may make mistake in our work, but we would never miss opportunity to correct inaccurate or imprecise article, after we realize there was an error. We have also committed ourselves to respecting Serbian Journalists' Code of Ethics in order to maintain highest professional standards, including those on correction policy. (see the link http://www.istinomer.rs/o-istinomeru) We are obliged to respect the Law on Public Information and Media, which envisaged procedure for corrections in detail, which we fully respect.

We are transparent about all the changes after the text was published and therefore we always add a note at the end of the text explaining what was amended - whether it was false information or additional data was inserted for some reason.

Files Attached
picture_as_pdf 2511-14.pdf (335 KB)
Ivana Jeremic Assessor
12-Sep-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Istinomer has a fairly explained corrections policy and all the corrections are clearly marked.


done_all 6a marked as Fully compliant by Ivana Jeremic.

Criterion 6b
Examples of corrections
Evidence required: Please provide two examples of a correction made, or correction requests handled, in the past year.

Istinomer
22-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Bellow you may find the links for corrections made in two different articles. In the first case, answers came late, after the given deadline and after the text was published. Even though correction was not requested by the actor whose claim was rated and the answer came late, we amended the article.

Second correction was made after one reader posted comment on Facebook almost four months after original fact check was published. This user pointed out to some inaccurate information and provided arguments why he believed rating was incorrect. We corrected what was mistaken, but we did not change the rating, as we determined this change did not affect the rating itself. We have also carefully examined additional arguments the reader provided, but this did not change the conclusion.

https://www.istinomer.rs/ocena/4114/U%20Beogradu%20obezbe%C4%91ene%20naknade%20za%20porodilje

http://www.istinomer.rs/ocena/4085/EU-trazi-Pravosudnu-akademiju



Ivana Jeremic Assessor
12-Sep-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

They do not have a page with the list of all corrections. However, they add an explanatory paragraph under every report with the list of actions, what led to the mistake that was made and then what exactly and how was corrected in the report.


done 6b marked as Partially compliant by Ivana Jeremic.