Journalists urged to fight misinformation

Journalists have been encouraged to fight misinformation and disinformation and ensure that they publish credible information as the country heads towards elections. 

This came out during a workshop on misinformation and disinformation hosted by the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe in Harare, Tuesday. 

MISA Zimbabwe Board of Trustees Chairperson, Chris Chinaka, who was facilitating the workshop, emphasised the importance for journalists to be wary of their sources of information so that they can publish true information.

“It is important for media practitioners to assess the people they quote in their stories and the places or platforms where they get their stories from. The first line of defence in journalism is professionalism. Masses rely on media for factual information hence once you publish false information you have destroyed your credibility as a news source,” he said.

“As we draw near elections, it is important for journalists to be capacitated with information pertaining to elections. The legal frameworks around elections and the electoral process on its own, in accordance with the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Journalists need to have a database of credible sources who would provide credible information so that the public can be given accurate information.”

Chinaka said journalists must not become part of the misinformation and disinformation ecosystem because they have the mandate to hold public authorities to account and give people credible information at the same time.

“Right now there has been the talk of Cyclone Freddy, it is an emergency and people, among other sources, rely on information from media outlets on the situation on the ground. How many organisations had done adequate preparations to ensure that should disaster strike, they can be able to extensively report on it?”

“Newsrooms must always be ready to cover disasters. They are at the forefront of information dissemination, they must have everything in place on how they will carry out their coverage during the entirety of that particular situation.”

Misa regional campaigns co-ordinator, Nqaba Matshazi, highlighted the need for journalists to cultivate a culture of reading and researching so that they can give people accurate information.

“As journalists, it is important that we acknowledge that we do not know everything. That will encourage us to read more and research more so that we can publish accurate articles,” Matshazi said.

“We must not bring our organisations into disrepute by peddling false information. There are some media outlets that people will never go to because of the amount of fake news they publish. It is important that we pause before we post and ascertain that the information we have is true.”

Journalists noted that there is a need for stakeholders from various sectors to have engagements with them so that they can have an appreciation of the work from those sectors.

“Sometimes our sources do not understand the nature of our work. When we reach out to them they do not respond. It would be of assistance to have engagements with them and make them understand that when we reach out to them, we will be seeking clarity and assistance on matters that we do not fully comprehend. They resurface after an article has been published already,” a journalist said.

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