IPPR urges public to be discerning about information dissemination

At a panel discussion hosted by the Institute of Public Policy and Research (IPPR) here on Wednesday,

the Executive Chairperson of Namibia Media Trust, Gwen Lister said fake news as a concept was popularised by Donald Trump during his campaign for the Presidency of the United States of America'

She said as a loose term fake news incorporates misinformation and disinformation but Donald Trump used the concept to frame all aspects of media he disagrees with.

As a result, she says the misuse of the concept of fake news the term has somewhat been misunderstood and used wrongly.

Speaking at the event, panellist and research associate at the Institute of Public Policy and Research (IPPR), Fredrico Links said fake news is false information which is compiled and distributed with the intention to mislead readers.

He said public trust in media is declining as a result of the spreading of fake news and in order to counter these information pollution journalists should do proper fact checking.

He said this when he admitted that as a trained journalist he has experienced how poor journalism has led to media practitioners becoming enablers of fake news.

Links pointed out that there are instances where fake news is compiled and distributed with the deliberate intention to mislead and at other times the spreading of fake news is as a result of shoddy journalism.

Panellists at the discussion moderated by Lister, included Karabo Rajuili, the advocacy coordinator for amaBhungane, (an award winning investigative journalism organization based in South Africa) and Ololade Shyllon, a South African based Nigerian human rights advocate.

Regarding disinformation as a form of fake news, Rajuili said it is important to understand who is behind the disinformation in order to understand their networks and their motives.

She said the sources of disinformation can at times be highly organised associations and networks with political motives.

She further added that if the fake news they distribute is not countered it can have negative consequences for society such as a decline in media trust.

Shyllon said even though the proliferation of fake news, especially on social media is worrisome.

The state should not be allowed to regulate the media as a result as this may infringe on citizens' rights to access to information which is a fundamental human right.

She said the onus on discerning and countering disinformation rests with the citizens themselves, and then the platform (social media) which is used to distribute the fake news e.g. Facebook and WhatsApp; and then the state.

She said the state as a sponsor of media regulation should be the last recourse and that self-regulation by participants on social media and the platforms they use must regulate themselves in order to counter disinformation as a form of fake news.

Source: Namibia Press Agency