By Ayo Kehinde
In the absence of a cure for the coronavirus disease, misinformation and disinformation can thrive easily and pose disastrous consequences for the health of the unsuspecting public.
But with verified information, ethical coverage and reportage of the Covid-19 pandemic by the media in Nigeria, the pandemic can be safely managed until and after a remedy, currently undergoing research and trials by critical health sectors professionals globally, is found.
Meanwhile, the Institute for Media and Society (IMS) in collaboration with the Nigeria Community Radio Coalition, NCRC, organized training for broadcasters from community radio stations, and their counterparts in commercial and government owned stations across Nigeria in a bid to strengthen professionalism in the coverage of the pandemic in the country.
The training titled: Online Training for Broadcasters on Misinformation and Disinformation on COVID-19 in Nigeria held on Wednesday, May 27, 2020, with over 35 participants. They included; reporters, editors and presenters from radio stations across the six (6) geo-political zones of the country.
In his opening remarks at the event, the Executive Director of the Institute for Media and Society, Dr Akin Akingbulu noted that the objective of the training was to develop the capacity of broadcasters in understanding the various misconceptions, misinformation and disinformation on COVID-19 and how to address them professionally.
He expressed concern over the growing trend of misinformation and disinformation on Covid-19 in the public domain in recent times, and observed that the media have a vital role to play in addressing the situation at hand.
He pointed out that capacity building would help media practitioners acquire the much required skills in the discharge of their responsibility as information disseminators. He urged the participants to make us of knowledge acquired from the training to improve on their job.
The event which was moderated by Dr Abiodun Ogidan from the University of Lagos, featured two resource persons, namely Dr Tunde Akanni, a media trainer and lecturer from the Lagos State University who presented the topic: Misinformation and Disinformation in the COVID-19 era: What Are They? How Should Journalists Deal with them?, and Mrs Anthonia Akanji of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, FRCN, Ibadan Network Centre, who handled the topic; Dealing with Misinformation and Disinformation: Experience from the COVID-19 Frontline.
According to Akanni, misinformation and disinformation have further added to the challenge at hand in the COVID-19 era.
He observed that with the increasing social media space and public participation almost everyone has become journalist. In view of this, he appealed to media professionals to intensify their use of investigative journalism and verify information before dissemination, as the public relies on the media for authentic information.
“From the information from charlatans who either exaggerate or under rate the nature of the disease to unverified claims of cure in many parts of the world and the role of accessible social media platforms in spreading in spreading covid-19 information are some of the forms of misinformation and disinformation on the virus,” he said, while he stated that “loss of credibility because of exposure of mass media generally to improper gate keeping,” are some of the effect of misinformation and disinformation.
He urged the media professionals to be Internet savvy, so that they can separate counterfeit sources of information from the real ones, thereby curtailing the circulation of false news in the media space.
Mrs Akanji decried the spate of misinformation and disinformation in the public media space and the new media and encouraged media practitioners to always intensify their search for the truth and insist on it and ensure that they do not share information from unverifiable sources.
According to her, that variety of media contents should be deployed as tools for information disseminate to correct misinformation on Covid-19, adding that the media can use voices of important personalities in the society to reach out to the public.
She said; “As information handlers, the first thing for us is to know the truth about Covid-19, which would help us to correct misinformation and disinformation been spread around. Seek credible information from sources and organization, including the media and if you know that what has been shared to you is false label it fake before forwarding it so it helps other and stops further sharing.”
In their reactions, participants expressed their satisfaction with the training content, and assured organisers of their readiness to put knowledge acquired to use in their various broadcast stations.