Integra Africa – a team of global thinkers and doers – has challenged journalists and civil society organizations (CSOs) to spearhead the fight against disinformation to protect harm reduction efforts.
The organization’s Chief Advisor, Dr Tendai Mhizha, has also emphasized the need for investment in longitudinal studies on policy effectiveness as one way of combating disinformation thereby increasing the potency of harm reduction initiatives.
Mhizha made the sentiments on Tuesday during her presentation at a virtual meeting for journalists that report on harm reduction in Africa.
She disclosed that the European Union (EU) is already exploring different ways in which it can set up legal and regulatory frameworks to eliminate or prevent disinformation on the subject matter from spreading to the level of influencing government policy.
“Local journalism and CSOs can also play a key role in supporting fact-checking, media literacy, and the spreading of accurate information at a more local level. We have seen that efforts to thwart the spread of misinformation at the local level can be useful in communities where these organizations have credibility and are rooted in the fabric of the local ecosystem. It’s at this level where local journalists and CSOs can become the conveyors of truth and drivers of the correction of misinformation,” she said.
According to Mhizha, disinformation is the action of deliberately sharing biased or misleading information or propaganda with the intention of manipulating or skewing the narrative of certain events and phenomena.
She said disinformation is a global problem that has affected debate and discussion as well as behavioural, societal and political outcomes on specific issues on a national and international level.
“The spread of misinformation and disinformation are not new phenomena, but the technologies and platforms that now connect billions of people around the world enable the creation and rapid dissemination of more sophisticated and dangerous forms of distortion than ever before.
“The growing scope and scale of the threat posed by disinformation and misinformation is seen in politics, health, the environment, and technology, among other areas of society,” said Mhizha.
She added that as the world grapples with a raging pandemic, information literacy, is crucial to survival and recovery, stressing that disinformation and misinformation erode trust in public institutions, exacerbate class conflict, foment fear and hatred, influence public opinion and action, weaken the credibility of our institutions, embolden hostile actors and jeopardize the very democracies.