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‘Media literacy needed to deal with information overload’

People must be taught to be vigilant and cautious when dealing with fake news, a German diplomat posted in Zimbabwe has said.

Due to various digital online platforms and diverse news sources, a lot of information is shared and can be harmful and lead to confusion, particularly if the information is fake.

Guest of honour at the Media and Information Literacy in Matabeleland Conference hosted by CITE in Bulawayo Friday, a representative of the German embassy in Zimbabwe, Christian Oelkfe, stressed that media literacy was crucial to combat false information.

To help communities combat a torrent of falsehoods that go viral, CITE in partnership with a German organisation Interlink Academy has launched 18 information hubs in Bulawayo and Matabeleland provinces

“I am happy that a competent German organisation is partnered to work on media literacy in Zimbabwe. News is now carried by social media and is available 24/7 and these new media platforms channels add on to traditional media prints, newspapers, radio, TV and to digest these requires extra vigilance and extra efforts in view of the overwhelming amount of news that we are confronted with,” Oelkfe said in an online presentation from Berlin.

The German diplomat noted that considering the quality of news people are often confronted with, audiences must be cautious about the news they receive.

He noted that some would say “reading the paper can be a huge waste of time I guess but it would be naïve to think you can escape the reality of the times we live in. To stop reading the news would be almost like sticking your head in the sand.”

The right way forward, Oelfke, said in dealing with misinformation and disinformation was to improve media literacy.

“We need to improve media literacy and teach skills to navigate the news landscape of our times. Therefore I believe this conference is of huge relevance,” he said.

“The news landscape of our times requires extra care and vigilance and entrusts us with a greater responsibility, a responsibility that we need to take seriously to inform our opinions and make choices based on the information that we are exposed to.”

The German diplomat said looking at a Zimbabwean context, accepting this responsibility and shouldering it in a diligent manner was what responsible citizens did in empowering themselves.

“This seems ever so important, so instead of stopping reading the news, we can question how real it is,” Oelfke summed.

A renowned American scholar, an Internet Media/ Information Expert, Dan Gilmore, in an online presentation on why media literacy is important, said misinformation and disinformation posed challenges that affected people’s life-changing choices.

“Media literacy is a very important topic. We need to do it around the world and better than we have done before because the challenges due to misinformation and poor information in the world are so great,” he said from his base in the United States.

“We need to work better for everyone’s sake and to avoid trouble in the future. Information overload is a real thing. We are overwhelmed with all kinds of information from different sources. A lot of the information is true but some is not, it’s usually out of context and it’s more difficult than in the past to make sense out of it all.”

Gilmore noted how false information had great consequences for people everywhere, citing how most people suffered when fake news on the Covid-19 pandemic was shared widely.

“There has been a large torrent of information about Covid-19 that is wrong. Sometimes deliberately and that’s very scary because if you believe in disinformation about your health, it’s worse than political news,” noted the American scholar.

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