South Africa: Correctional Services Appeals for Accurate Reporting

The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has expressed concern at the manner in which some media houses are engaging with inmates, using illegal means to spread false and misleading information.

"This is totally unacceptable and very disturbing as the country is mobilising all its resources in the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic," the department said in a statement.

The department said where there are cases or areas of interest, these must be reported accurately and informed by verified facts.

"As a department, we have open lines of communication and continue to grant access and prompt responses to the media when a need is registered. We are committed to maintain our professional relations with the media but we appeal to all media houses to apply caution and verify facts, especially those they receive from offenders.

"The hysteria being created by some media houses agitates flimsy and bogus cases to dominate the environment, thus placing the entire nation on the edge of what may look like an emerging crisis, while reality is the exact opposite," said the department on Thursday.

The department said the false threat of a strike reported to be looming at correctional centres is an example of how misinformation can put the nation on the edge.

"At no point was Correctional Services ever notified by organised labour about their intention to strike, but we have unfortunately witnessed headlines about a looming strike without even a confirmation with unions or the department."

The department expressed its commitment to work with all stakeholders, including organised labour to prevent cases of Coronavirus at its centres.

It also appealed for calm and correct reporting informed by facts.

"Fake news can only cause panic to the citizens, officials and offenders, and the media must guard against it."

Meanwhile, the department said questions have been raised about the impact that the correctional system is likely to face during the state of disaster.

"As a department, we continue to detail our plans and respond whenever clarity is sought. Correctional Services has been very transparent, and provides updates on the situation on the ground," the department said.

The department has activated Infection Prevention Control (IPC) measures at all management areas, with specific directives to ensure that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is availed.

It has also pushed for the sanitisation of reception areas, cells, offices, vehicles and ablution facilities.

"We value the important role of the media during this time and we urge the media to verify all information before them, as some of the information is intended to mislead the nation," the department said.

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