Government, media must defy fake news

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams says government will work with the media in the fight against fake news and misinformation.

“There is a need to ensure that government and the media work together to deal with fake news. Misinformation and mal-information are two things that both government and the media should work together to protect our citizens from,” she said.

Ndabeni-Abrahams said this when she addressed a pre-State of the Nation Address cocktail at the Media 24 building in Cape Town on Wednesday evening.

She said while the media should be allowed to do its job to chase big stories and hold government to account, it is also important for media to report responsibly.

Further, it was essential for government officials to always aim to communicate instead of spinning information.

The cocktail, on the eve of the SONA, brought together media professionals, government officials and professionals from the corporate sector was co-sponsored by the National Lotteries Commission, Diageo and Primedia.

While she urged the media to continue reporting on incidents of corruption and malfeasance, Ndabeni Abrahams also urged government communicators to always aim to respond to media queries without hiding information in the name of putting a spin on stories.

Similarly, she said the media should not only aim to chase scoops but aim to report accurately. When policy proposals to regulate the media are tabled, they should not be policies aimed at censoring the media.

She also urged the media to aim to be agents of information when reporting on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address, which will be delivered in Parliament at 7pm this evening.

Communications Deputy Minister Pinky Kekana echoed Ndabeni-Abrahams’ call for the media and government to work together to fight against fake news and misinformation, and added that government needed members of the public who are well-informed and not misinformed.

She said it was important that mainstream media played their role in supporting community media as they usually contribute positively to communicating important information to communities.

Ahead of the Minister and the Deputy Minister’s remarks, SA National Editors Forum Chairperson and Eye Witness News Group Editor in Chief Mahlatse Mahlase said the media fraternity was under threat from fake news.

She said journalists who reported on corruption were usually under threat from agents of fake news who work tirelessly to discredit journalists through “bots” that posted nothing but misinformation in the social media space.

Mahlase agreed that as the country heads to the polls in May, there was a need for government and the media to work together to tackle fake news and counter misinformation. –