By A Correspondent- Addressing disinformation is a key challenge that the media faces in the digital age and online content creators should strive to counter disinformation as it undermines democracy, erode social cohesion and incite violence.
In a speech read on his behalf by Ingrid Tagwirei, UNESCO regional adviser for communication and information AL-Amin Yusuph said online content creators have a responsibility to counter disinformation by verifying facts, exposing lies, correcting errors and providing context to their work.
Yusuph said this at the Zimbabwe Online Content Creators (ZOCC) National Media Forum 2023 organised in partnership with UNESCO and Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC). The forum was attended by 40 ZOCC members from all of the association’s national chapters and the academia and its aim is to foster dialogue, collaboration and professionalism on issues of disinformation and hate speech on online platforms.
“As online content creators you have a vital role in informing, educating and engaging
the public on matters of national interest. Hate speech can violate human rights, fuel conflict and threaten peace.
As content creators you should refrain from using or amplifying hate speech in your work and challenge it whenever it occurs. You should also promote tolerance, diversity and dialogue among different groups and communities.
The media has the responsibility to provide accurate, balanced and impartial coverage of critical issues including on online platforms. The media also has the duty to uphold ethical
standards and respect the rights and dignity of all stakeholders.”
He urged content creators to conduct themselves ethically as this is not only a professional obligation, but also a democratic necessity.
“Ethical reporting means adhering to the principles of truthfulness, fairness, accuracy, balance, objectivity, independence and accountability. It also means avoiding sensationalism, bias, distortion, manipulation, propaganda and misinformation. Ethical reporting promotes public trust and confidence in the media.”
He pointed out that during the recent elections, online platforms were used by citizens to receive information on the elections and it is important for online content creators to ensure that all information disseminated is sourced from reliable and official
sources is also essential for quality journalism.
“Reliable and official sources can help the media to avoid spreading rumours, speculation, hearsay and unverified claims that can mislead or confuse the public. As content creators, you should cite your sources clearly and acknowledge any limitations or uncertainties in your reporting.”
He urged content creators to fact check their work using available fact checking and verifying tools.
Zimbabwe Media Commission Chairperson Professor Ruby Magosvongwe said the promotion of a democratic culture demands responsible digital media.
“Being responsible not only means telling the truth and being factual, but also abiding by the law and being honest in the way a media practitioner gathers information – there is a need to be sensitive to the needs, rights of others, and the general good of society.
General good conduct entails the digital media being responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people, build positive lives, create and sustain peace – and above all champion national interests and development aspirations of the people.”
She said the media provides a first level of intelligence by alerting law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders of the potential of violence and conflict. allowing quick action to be taken to avoid potential violence and conflict.
“In conflict management, digital media can provide solutions as it deals directly with sources. On the other hand, social media has transformed the tools available to conflict parties as it creates opportunities by assisting in data collection and analysis, bolstering peace messaging and diversifying dialogue.”
Professor Magosvongwe called on the media to continuously practice responsible journalism post elections.
“Given the fact that the 2023 harmonised elections have been concluded, the electoral cycle does not end with the voting process but is ongoing till the next voting period. It is in this regard that digital media should provide a platform for debate among candidates by allowing candidates to communicate their messages to the electorate, and reporting on campaigning developments.”
She said the role of the media should be to inform voters on how to exercise their rights, monitor the election process, including election-day proceedings, and report the results to the public.
“Zimbabwe has taken steps to ensure that the media operates in a conducive environment when performing their proper function in the democratic space. The various steps taken include provisions of the Constitution, ZMC Act, the Electoral Act (Section 160) and the Statutory Instrument 33 of 2008. These legal instruments provide a framework within which the media has to operate, both print and electronic. T
The spirit of the legal instruments is to ensure a fair, balanced and objective coverage of all political parties and contestants. These legal provisions are in addition to the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and the African Union Charter on Elections.”
Professor Magosvongwe revealed that the ZMC in partnership with UNESCO and other donors is currently capacitating media players to play their role before, during and after elections.
The Commission launched an Elections Reporting and Peace Journalism Manual which deals with peace reporting, violence and conflict resolution, safety of journalists, elections and women, elections and youths and the conduct of the media when covering political activities.
The Manual is continually being distributed across the country to media practitioners.