Be wary of rumor-mongering running deep in the Media

Odongo Odoyo

By Gilo Jr. Okwata (Guest)

The emergence of fake news is as old as the existence of human on earth. Wars and news of invasion were filled with propaganda, rumor-mongering and anything that bordered what we call ‘fake news’ today or alternative to the factual truth. Many battles have been waged as a consequence of unverified information resulting to massive loss of lives. A living example of our recent memory is the 2003 Iraq war in which the United States of America and her allies accused Iraqi government especially Saddam Hussein of manufacturing Weapons of Mass Destruction which turned out to be misinformation causing catastrophic consequences. Fake news is anything ranging from propaganda, media spin, and outright lies to disinformation aimed at damaging reputation of a person, entity or making money through advertising.

The invention of Social Media has compounded the already hard-to-deal with problem by taking the battle to a higher notch. The online battle is proving to be much harder and more difficult to crack due to uncontrolled nature of cyberspace. The borders of cyber domain are visibly hard to navigate. It is unmarked and not marked by barbed wires, concrete walls or even military or police guards. These are imaginary territories which only few people, who claim to know technology better than all of us, understand. 

My concern today is the damaging effects of fake news and disinformation to our society considering the delicate nature of the information shared to the public.

This week, our mainstream news outlets contained different headlines but similar intentions about the rumor of diplomats and ambassadors allegedly being expelled from Addis Ababa in connection to recent development in Ethiopia. Both governments then came out ominously to deny any such move, calling it fake news, fictitious and flimsy done purposely to misinform the public.

Let me remind you that the intention of fake news is always and possibly to sidetrack the public from the topical issues or to feed into well-crafted narratives. When it is a satire, we can learn from its humor.  

What then do we read from the supposed never-happened expulsion? Who is this unknown mouthpiece of media houses? Is someone trying to divert our attention from what we should know from the government?

I think the mainstream media has played into the hands and traps of the power elites who have been trying to eschew public inclination from getting to the bottom of the hidden agenda or worse, the media actually is trying to create panic by instilling fear which could possibly have greater impact on public confidence leading to public and economic uncertainty.

The media should play its major role of informing the public with facts, accurate, correct, verified and right information. It should be wary of the rumor-mongering den which digs deeper and lurks in the shadows of public ignorance.

All media houses including Juba Monitor, SSBC, N0 1 Citizen, The Dawn and other online channels need to guard themselves against fake news, misinformation and disinformation. It is high time that we dealt with the elephant in the room with practicality. It is not enough to know and believe that this thing exists but how we respond and stamp out the vice.  The media shapes and transforms the way we perceive things. Fake news is simply fake information. It creates insecurity and sows social and public discord. We have the responsibility to protect the interest of people, the nation and the reputation of the media and its practitioners.

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