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5 Reliable Sources You Can Check Facts And Information At Before Casting Your Vote

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The Federation of State Humanities Councils in the United States of America started a programme called ‘Democracy and the Informed Citizen’ in 2018. Under the program, 49 humanities council were given funds to examine the critical role of journalism in the preservation of the idea of the electoral process and by extension, of the idea of a sustainable democracy. This dependence of the success of democracy on ethical and appropriate journalism holds much more worth now, given the impact that social media and connectivity have had on our lives.

In about two months from now, Indians would be glued to their television sets, waiting to hear about the fate of their preferred politicians. But for the next two months, these same Indians would have to pay back the debt that they owe to the sanctity of our country’s democracy: their duty to vote. They have to walk to the nearest booths and cast their one vote to the candidate that promises them the right things.

The affirmation of the feasibility of said promised and the candidates’ competence to fulfill said promises is where the electoral crowd relies on the so-called watchdog of justice, the media. This fourth pillar of democracy bears the duty of informing the electorate with information that would be relevant and helpful to the voters when they step into that booth. For example, when Rahul Gandhi proposes the idea of a universal basic income of ₹6000 rupees per month, the responsibility of the mainstream media is to not just debate on how this proposal might impact the election scene in the coming days, but also discuss the feasibility of such a proposal and its impact on the population.

All of us, at one point of time, have been part of that WhatsApp group which is filled with forwards and links that seem shady enough for us to ignore, but we either lack the conviction or the resources to help convince ourselves of that particular claim’s falsity. This piece shall list a few sources which might help a confused user confirm the validity of a claim because in the few weeks following the elections, fake news and fake claims would gain the upper hand over the ignorance of the electorate easily.

1) Factly

With a section on the Modi government’s 48 months in power, Factly has managed to fact-check a lot of the government’s claims. From their piece on fact-checking the government’s assertions in the banking sector to their work on putting the leadership’s claims of their programmes against tuberculosis to test, Factly has managed to clear the mist that has come to surround the actual statistics.

For example, the BJP government published an infographic that made four claims about the enabling of legislators in fighting corruption. Factly ran a piece on the same, checking those four claims and presenting a detailed analysis of the same.

With the environment of fake news prevalent today and biased agendas being broadcast on our prime-time television, the idea of more fact-checking websites has been gaining pace. Newer and newer such initiatives have started taking up space on the internet to provide for fact-checking through elaborate and different methodologies to confirm various claims. A couple more of such websites that users can rely on are FactChecker and FactCrescendo.

2) NewsLaundry

Although stating news-media as a reliable source is a fire that might burn my own hands, NewsLaundry has managed to stand out from a lot of its mainstream counterparts. One of the major reasons for this media house’s success in terms of authenticity and their affection towards facts lies in the standard of their ownership. While the major newspapers and media giants in the country continue to be owned by conglomerates and influential figures, like Shobhana Bhartia for the Hindustan Times Group, the Marans for the Sun, and Chandan Mitra for the Pioneer, NewsLaundry has managed to sustain under a subscriber model for now.

Unlike its peers, which rely heavily on advertisers and its investors to keep them alive, NewsLaundry makes its earnings from the subscriptions it sells. Although this makes it restrictive only to people who can afford to pay a periodic price, it does provide a fresher and unbiased perspective into the daily news from across the country.

For example, Pune Mirror, a tabloid owned by the Times group, recently claimed that a construction worker arrested by the ATS was related to the Pulwama attacks. Other media giants like the Daily Pioneer and Lok Satta soon jumped the bandwagon on claiming the same. In contrast to this, NewsLaundry released a piece that described the entire process that led to the birth of this claim and how it is not true.

3) Alt News

Started by a software engineer, this website has contributed strongly to the process of fact-checking the Indian social media as well as the Indian news media. Another thing that makes me put Alt News up as a reliable source here is their extremely detailed transparency, as far as an online media platform is considered. If one goes through their website, it won’t take too long to discover their openness about the steps they follow to fact-check their claims. With separate tabs for the methodology followed to fact-check a claim, the technique that they use to source any of their claims as well as their transparency towards their funding, Alt News surely puts forward a strong example for the mainstream media giants in the country.

One of their more recent pieces, for example, works to debunk the fact that had been making rounds on social media for a while. At one of Rahul Gandhi’s rallies at Wayanad, the participants were alleged to have raised Pakistan’s national flag. Alt News ran a piece describing, in detail, as to how the flag that was used was from the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and how similar claims had been made in the past too.

4) Newspapers

In today’s world, where social media reigns supreme and media houses have either moved their workings to the internet, have chosen a path of struggle and decline, or have treaded a path between the two, an economy based on quality has turned into one that is run by quantity. In a market that strives on consumer attention, it is almost natural to assume that media entities would transform into more of a sales force than a group of journalists aiming for better standards. Obviously, there are exceptions to this, but this is the easy way to make money online now.

Additionally, in a pressure to release fresher news every day, the process to fact-check and prepare the piece in a better way starts to suffer. In contrast to this, the country’s print media, although suffering economically, seems to hold its journalistic standards to a higher measure than most of the electronic and online media houses. Although newspapers like The Hindu, or The Pioneer have widely been criticised for respectively taking left-leaning as well as pro-BJP stands, a lot of their pieces do provide unbiased and fair opinions at times.

Furthermore, I agree that newspapers are no less culprits than the online players, especially when their content has, at times, reflected the ideologies of their respective owners. But, in hindsight, given their limited power on the Indian consumer, print media, especially local-run newspapers, seem to provide more honest stories and more accurate facts than their internet-savvy counterparts.

5) Responsibility Of The Reader

Finally, even if you, the consumer of the news, steps out to fight the battle against misinformation, armed with the above resources, the onus of not contributing to the vicious circle of misinformation falls on you. At an event held by the South Dakota Humanities Council, Washington Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron, said, “if all they (information sources) do is reinforce your point of view, you should be highly suspicious of them, because that is their purpose.” This is, what I feel, where our duty, as consumers of news comes into play. In an adrenaline-fueled frenzy that follows the moment we see something agreeing to our political ideology online, we don’t hesitate to retweet or share it around.

This way, we are unknowingly contributing to a culture that further thrives on the desire of being agreed with. A lot of outlets mentioned above state the methodologies they follow while debunking various claims and these processes can easily be put to use by a regular consumer. From running a basic Google search on the topic, to using the feature of reverse image search, consumers can begin contributing to the dismantling of this toxic culture in place. Additionally, this video explains the kind of thought process that you can follow before you decide on resharing an item that agrees with you.

In times like today, when we have submitted ourselves to the technology around us, we must also ponder on the extent of its power. We must acknowledge that objectivity is a myth and begin looking at every piece of news with skepticism and use the resources at our dispatch to stop this exploitation of our intellectual selves. Only then, can we, the world’s biggest democracy, provide for a truly fair and free platform.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: Garry Knight/Flickr.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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