Information pollution can be conquered by questioning all information received on social and traditional media.
Those were the sentiments shared last Friday, at the World Press Freedom Day panel discussion titled “Media literacy as a remedy for Info pollution”, at Star College in Sybrand Park.
Facilitator and freelance journalist Yazeed Kamaldien told the 50-plus guests, which included non-profit organisations, that information pollution is a bombardment of low value, inaccurate, useless and undesirable information and it can have a negative impact on news.
Regional editor at the SABC, Kenneth Makatees, said the challenge of fake news goes back to the early 19th century, when it was called yellow journalism.
“The struggle we encounter with fake news is that it becomes so influential in the increased demand of information,” he said.
Mr Makatees says the consumers no longer only read news but also spread false news. “It is important for the user to ask where the information comes from, and does it make sense,” he said.
Crystal Orderson, Southern African editor at Africa Report, agreed that fact-checking is still important.
“In newsrooms we still have to ensure that the basics are followed, asking yourself questions and fact-checking, because I don’t think information pollution is going to disappear,” she says.
Another issue, raised by a political lecturer at CPUT, Dr Trust Matsilele, is the importance of identifying the roles that politicians play in misinformation and propaganda.
Dr Matsilele said that journalists face a lot of pressure when fact-checking “political actors”.
“It’s no longer journalists who fact-check politicians, it’s politicians and their supporters who fact-check journalists,” he said.
Regional director Aydin Inal, from the Turquoise Harmony Institute, which organised the event, said the ability to judge if information is credible is important.