Friday, November 26, 2021

Journalism education ‘truth’ challenges in an age of growing hate, intolerance and disinformation


Four months ago Papua New Guinean journalists had been warning about increasing tensions over misinformation about COVID vaccines and a lack of clear communication from health authorities.
IMAGE: Screenshot Guardian Pacific Project


IN RESPONSE to the escalating COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in mid-February 2020 came a warning by the World Health Organisation (WHO) Secretary-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom, who declared that “we’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic”. He added that fake news “spreads faster and more easily than this virus” .

The following month, in March 2020, UN Secretary-General António Guterres identified the “new enemy” as a “growing surge of disinformation”. However, the term “disinfodemic” – which I much prefer – was adopted by the authors of a policy brief for UNESCO to describe the “falsehoods fuelling the pandemic”.

This disinfodemic has been rapidly leading to upheavals in many countries – including in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand in the weeks with protests, civil disobedience and attacks on health officials, medical staff and frontline workers.

Such assaults and violent confrontations have taken particular nasty turns in some of our neighbouring microstates of the South Pacific – notably Fiji and Papua New Guinea, the largest countries and biggest economies in the region.

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