Disinformation and misinformation, nowadays known as fake news, is “drowning” journalism, prompting efforts in various parts of the world to ramp up efforts to create awareness and resources to held journalists deal with their own pandemic.

During the last month, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) contributed to the effort by holding a Webinar to create awareness about the resources and curriculum created by leading journalism educators. In Nigeria, training on fact-checking is underway targeting West African journalist. The Embassy of Sweden in Pretoria hosted a conversation on fact-checking.

Journalism is getting drowned under an avalanche of disinformation and misinformation, head of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at Christ Nagar College in Jakarta, Manju Rose Mathews, said at the UNESCO webinar.

“Fighting misinformation has become more important than ever. Curricular interventions are required to nurture skills for the new generation of media students in identifying and verifying fake news,” said Mathews.

Mathews decried that the misinformation around Covid-19 vaccination was a growing threat to efforts to contain the pandemic. “Vaccine scepticism, disinformation targeting specific brand of vaccines, vaccine nationalism, confusion around vaccine efficacy have all created a scenario where people hesitate to inoculate,” added Mathews.

Paul Kimumwe from the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) argued for the need to establish verification desks within small and large media houses to ensure the accuracy of news. Kimumwe stressed the importance of media and information literacy to counter fake news.

University of the Philippines’ Yvonne Chua concurred, saying that “fact-checking in the pandemic phase is essential to contain the spread of fake news. The importance of having fact-checking as a course for media education will help media students to be well trained with skills to check fake news,” said Chua.

Article 19’s senior programme officer, Robert Wanjala, told the webinar that legislation to curtail fake news could result in unintended consequences of suppressing media freedom. “We need non-invasive methods to control fake news. Governmental control can only hamper freedom of the press,” said Wanjala.