Istinomjer

Organization: Istinomjer
Applicant: Danira Karovic
Assessor: Milica Šarić
Conclusion and recommendations
on 27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

Milica Šarić wrote:

Istinomjer’s website lacks information on funding in 2016 and spending in 2016 and 2017 (please see under 4) Transparency of funding and of organization, Principle 3))

Istinomjer’s fact-checking methodology is explained clearly on a link that needs to put in an accessible place on website, together with a message that makes clear what readers can legitimately expect will be fact-checked and what isn’t fact-checkable (please see under 5) Transparency of methodology, Principle 4))

on 27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

Milica Šarić 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.

Istinomjer
27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

Istinomjer is an online platform for the monitoring and evaluation of responsibilities of public office holders and political parties in power. Istinomjer is the project developed and edited by the Civic Association "Why not?".

http://zastone.ba/en/programs/responsible-government/istinomjer/

The CA “Why Not” is a legal entity registered in the register of civic associations within the Ministry of Justice of FBiH on January 9th 2001 under No. 56, Book 1 of the register, with registration number 03-054-992/97-2. Scanned copy of the Decision on the Registration will be sent separately through the e-mail.

Milica Šarić Assessor
27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

Istinomjer is a fact-checking project of “Why not”, and “Why not” is registered as the association of citizens.

According to their Statute, “Why not” is a non-governmental organization that consists of activists promoting culture of peace, art, democracy, human rights etc.

Looking at documents the association sent (Decision on Registration and Statute), there is no evidence fact-checking is among their predominant activities.

However, website of the Istinomjer project is filled with fact-checking content, so it does comply with “the distinct fact-checking section” mentioned above.

(N.B. The applicant was asked via email to send their Statute; attached in addition to this checklist)


done_all 1a marked as Fully compliant by Milica Šarić.

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.

Milica Šarić Assessor
27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

Istinomjer checks the accuracy of statements, evaluates them and then publishes reports.

For the past three months (Dec-Feb) in a section of website named “Izjave” (Statements) there were 51 reports. That number of reports goes beyond one report on every two days – that is almost four reports a week.

Besides that, Istinomjer has section “Analize” (Analysis) where it publishes stories about certain issues in society, and also short reports on pre-election promises. (Elections were not held in the past three months, so the number of pre-election reports is not included in the statistics above.)


done_all 1b marked as Fully compliant by Milica Šarić.

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.

Istinomjer
27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

Istinomjer treats every political party and political option in BiH alike and applies exactly the same standards and predetermined methodology when fact-checking accuracy of claims made by all sides.

BiH’s is a very complex political system, where numerous parties and candidates compete in general elections (on cantonal, entity and state level) and local elections (municipal level and Brčko District). This administrative division, paired with ethnic divide (both inherent to the constitutive system and practiced in everyday politics) produces a divided media sphere, where political actors usually receive different treatment based on their relation to these factors (administrative level and ethnic group).

Istinomjer, however, fact-checks statements from across the political spectrum in BiH, applying the same standards and methodology to claims made by all political actors. We also track campaign promises of all the political parties in ruling coalitions on the two top administrative levels (12 parties in the previous term, 5 in the term before that and 9 in the current term) and promises of mayors of several municipalities from both entities and 4 different cantons. These are all competing (and often belligerent) political actors, coming from different ethnopolitical and ideological backgrounds and all are tracked and rated in the same way.

Considering that we can not fact-check all of the statements and promises, we choose those that are newsworthy in terms of dealing with current “hot topics”; issues that affect peoples’ lives, or having weight for citizens as voters (particularly when following pre-election campaigns).

We are nonpartisan and strive to be impartial when drawing attention to the inaccurate statements of all political actors. However, as our work is centered around promotion of political accountability, it is inevitably focused more on some political actors than the others. Specifically, we put stronger focus on the parties and political figures who hold executive power, particularly since we also track these parties’ pre-election promises. We therefore encourage the readers to point us to the possible false statements, unfulfilled promises, or any other relevant “fact-checking material” that we might have missed.

Links to examples of our fact checks, proving the scope and consistency of our work, can be found below:

http://istinomjer.ba/bozo-ljubic-trecina-hrvata-nestala-iz-bih-zbog-komsica/

http://istinomjer.ba/rs-se-nije-zaduzila-davno-prije/

http://istinomjer.ba/prosjecne-plate-u-rs-fbih/ http://istinomjer.ba/sta-govore-brojevi-o-ispravnosti-raspodjele-prihoda-u-fbih/

http://istinomjer.ba/kanton-sarajevo-ne-proizvodi-pet-puta-vise/

http://istinomjer.ba/zvizdic-izmislio-692-reformska-dokumenta/

http://istinomjer.ba/zukic-biraci-su-krivi-sto-nemamo-zene-u-stranackim-tijelima/

http://istinomjer.ba/dodikov-popisni-vremeplov/

http://istinomjer.ba/130-000-km-za-strogo-povjerljivi-monitoring-pasa-lutalica-u-kantonu-sarajevo/

http://istinomjer.ba/travnik-turisticka-meka-bez-ijednog-hotela/

http://istinomjer.ba/ispunjenost-predizbornih-obecanja-bijeljina-2012-2016/

http://istinomjer.ba/bih-nije-regionalni-lider-u-ekonomskom-napretku/

http://istinomjer.ba/najvise-zakonodavno-tijelo-usvojilo-samo-tri-zakona/

http://istinomjer.ba/treci-pjesadijski-puk-nema-pocasnu-jedinicu/

http://istinomjer.ba/uzbuna-na-parove-razbroj-se/

Our commitment to impartiality and nonpartisanship, along with our methodology can be found on our website, on the link below:

http://istinomjer.ba/o-istinomjeru/

http://istinomjer.ba/metodologija/ 

Milica Šarić Assessor
27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

Samples of Istinomjer’s work selected by the assessor confirm that fact checks cover a variety of subjects and speakers. Subjects of reports mostly depend on a public figure’s scope of workplace or interests, or on competences of institutions.

Istinomjer’s reports are focused on many public figures from different political parties, so there is no visible sign of favoritism.


done_all 2a marked as Fully compliant by Milica Šarić.

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.

Istinomjer
27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

No one working in Istinomjer should or does engage in partisan political activity or make contributions to candidates or advocacy organizations.

Our previous and current activities, performed both within the Istinomjer and the entire organization, have always been independent from any political influence, as well as from our own personal political and other beliefs. Our work is solely funded by international organizations and embassies, who share our belief in the objectivity, impartiality and influence on public opinion.

As an organization, we engage in promoting government transparency and political accountability, so we always did and will always support policies and legislation that helps Bosnian society move towards more transparent and accountable governance, regardless of which political party or person introduces these policies or legislation.

Milica Šarić Assessor
27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

Considering there is no knowledge (or proof) of direct involvement of employees in political parties or advocacy groups, assessor in this matter must rely on the applicant’s statement.

In Excel file “IFCN code of principles – application Istinomjer” the applicant stated no employee is engaged in partisan political activity or advocacy organization, and that all activities are independent from political influences or personal beliefs.

The statement ends with tendencies of organization “Why not”:

“(…) we always did and will always support policies and legislation that helps Bosnian society move towards more transparent and accountable governance, regardless of which political party or person introduces these policies or legislation.”

Given there is no evidence of otherwise, compliance is marked as “complete”.


done_all 2b marked as Fully compliant by Milica Šarić.

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.

Istinomjer
27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

All of our articles contain hyperlinks to source material used for evaluation of statements or promises. This way, readers themselves will be able to check the facts and determine their accuracy.

Our researches collect information on the following: reports on government and parliamentary sessions; reports on activities of the Ministers; reports on activities of various government agencies; laws and regulations which are being proposed, discussed and passed in Parliaments; strategies and plans adopted by governments; media reports on government and Parliament activities; various reports by other CSOs or international organizations (watchdogs, think-thanks, international bodies which research and monitor different processes and parameters in BiH, etc.); statistical data on BiH; public budgets.

This continuous process of data collection for the governments on all levels, helps us trace the progress (or stagnation) on various processes in the country and also helps us to quickly and efficiently evaluate given statement or promise.

Except in cases where the truth, consistency and fulfillment of statements or promises that we fact-check and assess are beyond the doubt, we will try to contact the person or institution whose statement we value in order to get their comment on the topic in question.

We often seek expert opinions in the field we're investigating, particularly with complex issues that require educated insight for more precise assessments.

The policy is publicly available on our website, on the link below:

http://istinomjer.ba/o-istinomjeru/

Milica Šarić Assessor
27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

Samples of Istinomjer’s work selected by the assessor confirm the applicant links to the sources of the claims it is fact-checking and the evidence it uses to fact-check them.

Most fact-checked claims are taken from a wide number of BiH media, Youtube videos, and some from institutions’ public announcements or documents.

These are then checked through other media articles or institutions’ statements. If a media product, that can help checking the claim, does not exist / is not available, Istinomjer asks the source itself for explanation and then quote the answer in its report.

N.B. Some outsourced links used as sources expired. Also, using other media either as source of someone’s claim or evidence to fact-check such claim can be tricky and unreliable, but since the question here is about “transparency of sources”, compliance is “complete”.


done_all 3a marked as Fully compliant by Milica Šarić.

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.

Istinomjer
27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

The required information can be found on the link below:

http://istinomjer.ba/o-istinomjeru/

Milica Šarić Assessor
27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

The applicant sent a link to the Istinomjer’s page about them. On that page, in just one sentence, Istinomjer claims its budget for 2017 to be 71,000 dollars, and presents one financier.

On the same page it is indicated that Istinomjer is a non-profit media – project of Association of Citizens "Why not".

There are no other finances or sources of funding shown (if any), which makes the conclusion the website lacks information on funding in 2016 and spending in 2016 and 2017.


done 4a marked as Partially compliant by Milica Šarić.

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.

Istinomjer
27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

The required information can be found on the link below:

http://istinomjer.ba/istinomjer-tim/

Milica Šarić Assessor
27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

All authors are listed on a separate page of Istinomjer’s website, with short biographies for each of them. It is also noted the project is developed and regulated by the Association of Citizens "Why not".


done_all 4b marked as Fully compliant by Milica Šarić.

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

Istinomjer
27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

The required information can be found on the link below:

http://istinomjer.ba/kontakt/ http://istinomjer.ba/istinomjer-tim/ 

Milica Šarić Assessor
27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

Beneath each author’s biography his/her email address can be found. Also, the public can find email address of Istinomjer, and address, phone number and email address of “Why not” in two places on website, plus at the bottom of each page.


done_all 4c marked as Fully compliant by Milica Šarić.

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.

Istinomjer
27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

The link below provides detailed methodology of our fact-checking work. If necessary, methodology can be translated into English and provided to you. http://istinomjer.ba/metodologija/

Milica Šarić Assessor
27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

The applicant sent (in Excel file) a link to its methodology (http://istinomjer.ba/metodologija/). The content of this page explains Istinomjer’s fact-checking methodology publicly and clearly. However, to access this page you need to have a link, so there is a need to put such link to methodology in an accessible place on website.

(There is a small part about methodology on another page of website called “About Istinomjer”, but it is just ‘surface’ of full methodology available on the link above)


done 5a marked as Partially compliant by Milica Šarić.

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.

Istinomjer
27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

Readers can submit requests for fact-checks of claims made by political actors by sending us an email with the claim, which is stated on the main page of our website. http://istinomjer.ba/ Also, Istinomjer has its own Facebook page where readers can contact us and ask for the specific claim to be checked. This is usually the channel of communication that has been used for such purposes in the past. Readers can also participate in the monitoring of the pre-election promises, by sending us their inputs on fulfillment of a specific promise. Each individual promise has a form which can be used to submit additional data about that promise. Please check the link below for an example. http://istinomjer.ba/predizborna-obecanja/zavrsenje-zapocetih-a-nedovrsenih-projekata/

Milica Šarić Assessor
27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

It is clear on the website how people can reach Istinomjer. (The public can find email address of Istinomjer in three places on their website, see above)

In one of these places – at the bottom of each page – there is a message next to the email address: “Submit new content to istinomjer.ba or warn about the irresponsibility of politicians.”

However, such message does not make it clear what readers can legitimately expect will be fact-checked and what isn’t fact-checkable. The recommendation is to explain it to readers somewhere on website.

N.B. Only on page “Local elections 2016” there is a possibility within each, individual report to add additional information on the fulfillment of that promise and to send them to a team of Istinomjer for verification.

In the Excel file the applicant sent, it is noted: “Istinomjer has its own Facebook page where readers can contact us and ask for the specific claim to be checked. This is usually the channel of communication that has been used for such purposes in the past.”


done 5b marked as Partially compliant by Milica Šarić.

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.

Istinomjer
27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

Our correction policy can be found on the link below:

http://istinomjer.ba/o-istinomjeru/ 

Milica Šarić Assessor
27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

On its website, Istinomjer has clearly emphasized its public corrections policy. It calls for every subject of fact-checking to react to Istinomjer’s reports if needed, and provide explanations and facts challenging those reports (claims). After verifying those explanations / facts, Istinomjer will publish the result, and if an error was made, it will be publicly acknowledged and corrected.


done_all 6a marked as Fully compliant by Milica Šarić.

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

Istinomjer
27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

In mid-December 2016, the Mayor of Istočno Novo Sarajevo (municipality in BiH), Ljubiša Ćosić, addressed us with the letter in which he commented on Istinomjer’s assessment of his pre-election promises. He claimed that we made two errors while assessing his promises and asked for them to be corrected.

Istinomjer published the entire letter sent by Mr. Ćosić.

Also, Istinomjer conducted additional evaluation of the published data, establishing that no error was made and that presented facts were true.

The additional verification of the published data, including a brief article about the promises whose ratings were disputed, was both published on our website and sent to Mr. Ćosić as a response to his letter. We weren't contacted again with additional demands for corrections by Mr. Ćosić or anyone from his office.

Entire story can be found on the link below:

http://istinomjer.ba/odgovor-na-demant-ljubise-cosica/

The original articles which prompted a request for corrections can be found on these links:

http://istinomjer.ba/dupla-neistina-nacelniku-istocnog-novog-sarajeva/

http://istinomjer.ba/predizborna-obecanja/izgradnja-etno-sela/

http://istinomjer.ba/predizborna-obecanja/presjek-popunjavanja-javne-administracije/

We had one more similar request in the past year, sent by Obrad Kesić, the head of

“Office for Cooperation, Trade and Investment of Republika Srpska” in Washington DC. The request doesn’t entirely fall into the cathegory of “request for corrections”, as it was predominantly a complaint on what topics we chose to cover and how we covered it (the work of the said Office, its cost for the RS tax payers, the role of the Office and mr. Kesić himself in the repeatedly published false information on liaisons between the new US administration and members of the ruling party in Republika Srpska, the sum of public money spent on lobbying in the US by the RS Government, etc.) and accusations that our work is tailored according to the “interests of foreign governments”, that we “produce fake news” and similar. A small part of the six page letter did contain a dispute of our findings related to the supposed official invites of RS high officials to the inauguration of Donald Trump. We published the letter, along with the reply we sent to Mr. Kesić, which contained a detailed response to all the claims that held any factual content. As one of Mr. Kesić’s main complaints was that he wasn’t contacted before the original article was published, we added a list of questions in relation to the factual parts of the text, offering to include it in our coverage of the topic. We never received any answers, although we did get a reply, with repeated accusations and a statement that any additional questions can only be answered “in a separate interview or story”.

Since the letters from Mr. Kesić were sent in English, we responded in kind (providing, also, the translation to BHS for our readers), so the entire correspondence, in both languages, can be found on the link below:

http://istinomjer.ba/demant-obrada-kesica-odgovor-istinomjera/

The original articles which prompted a reaction from Mr. Kesić can be found on these links:

http://istinomjer.ba/istrazivanje-istinomjera-lazi-placene-novcem-gradanaki-rs/

http://istinomjer.ba/istrazivanje-istinomjera-lazi-placene-novcem-gradanaki-rs-ii/ 

Milica Šarić Assessor
27-Mar-2017 (2 years ago)

According to the two examples given by the applicant, it has adhered to its policy. All reactions were published, with Istinomjer’s verification of new information.

Looking at the first example no error was made and facts presented in disputed stories were true. However, the second example of ‘correction requests’ brought one thing to attention.

It was the addressing of Mr. Obrad Kesic, the head of “Office for Cooperation, Trade and Investment of Republika Srpska” in Washington DC, published on Istinomjer’s website (page “Analysis”) at the end of January 2017, as a respond to two stories. In those stories Mr. Kesic never got the chance to respond to the claims and accusations presented by Istinomjer.

In their application to the IFCN, Istinomjer states that “one of Mr. Kesić’s main complaints was that he wasn’t contacted before the original article was published”, which Istinomjer acknowledged and tried to correct with a list of questions put into the respond to Mr. Kesic.

Mr. Kesic did not answer the questions, nor attached proofs that any of two stories had errors, but asking Mr. Kesic for a comment, from the perspective of fact-checker, is something that could have at least contribute to the accuracy and credibility of written, and perhaps even avoid the complaint.

However, since the two stories weren’t formally fact-checking reports but more of investigative stories (analysis as Istinomjer says), and since at this point the question of compliance with ‘Open and honest corrections policy’ is raised, this principle is assessed as ‘complete’


done_all 6b marked as Fully compliant by Milica Šarić.