Dili, June 11, 2020 – Governments must lead the fight against a growing tide of inflammatory and misleading information threatening to worsen the already severe impacts of the virus, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
By building a trustable relationship with their populations, national governments can mitigate the worst effects of misinformation, and further loss of life and livelihoods. UNDP is working closely with national institutions, as well as with media and civil society, to fight the spread of misinformation. This includes supporting initiatives to use social media and websites to spread accurate information on COVID-19.
Advice about COVID-19 changes as our understanding of the disease evolves. This rapid evolution and the virus’s impact on lives and livelihoods have led to a public thirst for information. Social media, informal news sources and fringe journalism have filled the void, often sowing fear, stigmatization, discrimination and confusion.
“The tsunami of fake cures, scapegoating, conspiracy theories, and false news stories that has flooded media in general and online platforms in particular has created a chaotic information environment — one that is not only undermining the effectiveness of public health measures, but also leading to real life violence and discrimination, confusion, fear and, arguably, long-term societal harm,” said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner.
“Learning the lessons from HIV and Ebola, we must join forces to reject misinformation and stigma, anchoring our responses and advocacy in science, evidence, human rights and solidarity. While many actors bear a responsibility to counter misinformation, real progress will not be achieved without government leadership,” Steiner added.
The Reuters Institute found that around a third of social media users have reported seeing false or misleading information about the coronavirus.
In Timor-Leste, the UNDP has adapted project activities to increase training for journalists and the public on proper reporting of the virus and spotting fake news. This has included weekly prime time television discussions and biweekly media meetings in association with the Association of Journalists in Timor-Leste (AJTL). It is also supporting the national parliament to produce and distribute videos about the virus and the government’s response to it, with clear and credible government information for all Timorese.
“The best weapons any government can deploy now are transparency, diplomacy and collaboration. Governments can lead by example, demonstrating how to use technology with integrity. They can negotiate with big tech companies, promote national digital literacy campaigns, sponsor fact-checking efforts and allow journalists to do their jobs,” said Malin Herwig, Director, ai, of UNDP’s Oslo Governance Centre.
Last week, the United Nations launched ‘Verified,’ an initiative to combat the growing scourge of COVID-19 misinformation by increasing the volume and reach of trusted, accurate information. It will provide information around three themes: science – to save lives; solidarity – to promote local and global cooperation; and solutions – to advocate for support to impacted populations.
For video messages from the national parliament, please click here.
Alexander Ray, UNDP Timor-Leste – email@example.com
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