One, two, three, March, and just like that we are almost at the end of the first quarter of 2020; where has the time gone? In this edition, we look at trends around Covid-19 and honesty in journalism.
Honesty in Journalism
That was fast, first two months gone, and the media space did not skip a beat. Firstly, 2020 ushered us in with rumours of World War Three. Next, we had the Ukraine PS752 crash with the would-be Nigerian Engineer on board. This year, notably also featured take-backs and changing tunes; bringing us to the question- what is honesty in journalism and who benefits from it?
Pointing to the Tehran story, while several news reports published reports of the Nigerian on board; a few retracted their statements albeit surreptitiously. Another page-turner was the Oyedepo mystery; in the same instance, they were some corrections noted. Therein lies the question, how important is transparency in corrections?
As an IFCN signatory organisation, part of our principles eschews transparency in corrections implemented; this builds trust. In the business of journalism, truth is our currency. When we distort it intentionally or otherwise, we devalue it. Hence, transparency has to be at the forefront of our work.
COVID-19 is arguably the most mainstream of 2020, having followed us from 2019. The novel coronavirus, better known by its Covid-19 monicker is reminiscent of Ebola days for us Nigerians. We can all recall the arduous experience that was. We still often reference what havoc misinformation wreaked in that period. Misinformation amid global crises is akin to a grenade in a hurricane.
Fortunately, this time around, the truth corps launched a preemptive counterstrike globally. Poynter through the International Fact-checking Network launched a collaborative project to pull resources to combat misinformation around coronavirus. The coalition began humbly with over 40 fact-checking organisations in 30 countries on January 27. Soon enough, the initiative expanded to over 90 verification platforms with over 600 written fact-checks.
At first, the trends of misinformation around Covid-19 centred around conspiracy theories on the virus’ origins. Next came hoaxes on alleged curative methods. Then, came the religious and ethnic rhetoric. Recently, health authorities confirmed an outbreak incidence in the motherland, and all hell broke loose. Currently, its as if all the trends mentioned earlier are recycling themselves indigenously.
Nonetheless, as we have reiterated severally, it is imperative to consume only facts, not hearsay. In such sensitive times, hold onto credible information from relevant health authorities such as NCDC, CDC and WHO. Also pertinent, as much as possible refrain from sharing “forwarded” messages on WhatsApp. In our experience, 8 out of 10 of these end up misleading people; the same goes for other media platforms. Again, rely only on information from credible sources; and not just verified accounts. Recently, we have found that these groups are not infallible either.
There’s precious little that we can do about the barrage of misinformation that we see daily, but there’s a lot we can do together if we learn to identify suspicious claims in the news and refrain from fuelling the fire by spreading them! Here are our top picks of likely-to-be-false news which [sadly] couldn’t be fact-checked.
Redflag: Health-related news
- FAINTING OR SLUMPING IN THE BATHROOM – Source: WhatsApp
- Hot pineapple ~ can kill cancer cells – Source: WhatsApp
- Driver who drove the Italian man to Ogun demands N100million or he spreads the virus – Source: WhatsApp
Redflag: Economic-related news
- Henceforth, if any Nigerian Bank fails to return your money within 24hrs of a failed online transfer, they will be fined 10,000 nairas. The money goes to U! – Source: Comrade Ella on Twitter
- ”Don’t Bill Light Consumers Without Metre Above N200 Monthly” …govt orders DisCOs – Source: @THE STATUS ONLINE
- Dubawa expanded its reach to Ghana commencing with a week-long training. Read here for the press release.
- Our coveted Fellowship programme will start in a couple of months!
- Election fact-checking: Stay tuned for updates on the Kogi Senatorial Elections Rerun.