Bulawayo– Fake news, disinformation and misinformation can be harmful to society as it shakes the very core of democracy through eroding public trust, the Press and Media Programs Specialist for Africa Regional Services (ARS), Oumarou Barry has said.
Barry, a seasoned international journalist, media trainer and personality, said this at the Zimbabwe New Media Summit Reception Evening last night, an event which marked the beginning of the the two day conference.
“When citizens are bombarded with misinformation, they cannot make informed decisions, and this is a threat to democracy, civic engagement and freedom of expression,” Barry said.
He added that the U.S appreciates the efforts made by the Zimbabwean government towards re-branding the country’s media reputation.
“During my short time in Zimbabwe, I have had the opportunity to learn about ongoing efforts to reform media laws. They include discussions on the reform of legislation such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the Broadcasting Services Act,” he said.
“The U.S. welcomes government efforts to reform these laws in compliance with the Constitution of Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe’s international obligations,” Barry added.
The summit running under the theme Sustaining Democracy: Beyond Fake News, Disinformation and Misinformation is hosted by the Zimbabwe Center for Media and Information Literacy (ZCMIL), the Journalism and Media Studies Department at National University of Science and Technology (NUST) and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) among other stakeholders and was initially launched last year.
The launch was graced by His Worship, the city Mayor, Cllr Solomon Mguni, representatives from the US Embassy to Zimbabwe and NUST among several other esteemed delegates.
Speaking at the same event, Mayor Mguni reiterated the need to ensure a free flow of information in the country especially in this era of digital information.
The Mayor went on to urge traditional and community journalists to perform their duties responsibly and thanked the summit organisers for their efforts which he said will go a long way in equipping media practitioners with quality skills.
Barry took the opportunity to announce a timely shot in the arm for two local journalists, Divine Dube; who has been selected into 2019 – 2020 class of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship and Obey Manayiti; who has been selected to attend the Niemann Fellowship at Harvard University.
Dube will get the opportunity to join journalists from Brazil, Israel, Nigeria, Poland, the United Kingdom and Venezuela in leading collaborations to share investigative resources, stories and training whilst Manayiti will engage in special programs that convene scholars and experts in all media fields.