Zimbabwe: Media Urged to Fight Fake News

Senior Reporter

MEDIA's role in disseminating correct information remains critical as evidenced at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic as fake news became like yet another pandemic, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa has said.

While speaking at the World Press Freedom Day conference in Harare yesterday, the Minister reiterated the importance of disseminating factual information.

"At first, we all knew very little about the disease, and citizens of the world held on to every little bit of information that they could read or listen to, to make sense of the absolute disaster of the pandemic.

"Fake news became a pandemic within a pandemic. The role of established media in disseminating correct information to citizens, became evident. We all turned to trusted news sources for the correct and up-to-date information and news," said the Minister.

Even then, she said, the media in Zimbabwe and abroad were not fully geared for the pandemic and how to operate in such a disaster.

As such, Minister Mutsvangwa said the media industry had not been spared from the carnage wrought on the global economy by the pandemic.

"The pandemic hastened the downhill spiral of media economies. Now, our media establishments have been forced to cut down on costs and staff; streamline business as well as adopt a wait-and-see approach.

"They are barely surviving. This causes a lot of problems for media workers and the whole media value chain. Indeed, it is hard when you do not know what tomorrow holds," she said.

She said Government has taken a robust approach to fight the pandemic to ensure that the economy can return to previous routines and become more predictable.

Minister Mutsvangwa said it was imperative that no one was left behind and Government would achieve this by continuously opening the media space so that even the remote and marginalised villages could be part of their development within the context of the country's growth trajectory under the Second Republic.

"We look to the future with great hope that the media will come from this pandemic stronger, even if significantly changed. Already we are seeing the growth of new media establishments and start-ups that are coming with new ways of doing business and taking advantage of our enabling environment.

"We urge all media, old and new, to be conscientious of the role, rights, and responsibilities so that the sector can be a partner for development," she added.

She said some media activities could be harmful and encouraged journalists to be guided by professional ethics, accuracy, and fairness to protect the national interest as they exercise their rights and freedoms.

European Union Ambassador to Zimbabwe Timo Olkkonen said the pandemic had affected media pluralism in many countries across the globe.

He said journalists were the best vaccine against the virus of disinformation, which was wrecking the world, and commended the Government on opening up space to more community radios and television stations.

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