SOME regional media practitioners weighed in on Monday on the challenges that traditional media face from fake news and disinformation as they try to report the news accurately, especially during the covid19 pandemic.
They expressed their views during a webinar hosted by UNESCO to commemorate World Press Freedom Day.
Media Association of TT president Dr Sheila Rampersad praised the efforts of all regional journalists as they continued to do their jobs during the pandemic. She singled out journalists in St Vincent and the Grenadines for special praise because of the additional work they had to do, after last month's eruption of the La Soufriere volcano.
As she underscored the need for all journalists and media houses to be responsible in terms of the information they present to the public, Rampersad said it is wrong for people to conclude that errors made by traditional media in their reporting means they are spreading fake news or disinformation.
"An error is not fake news or disinformation."
She also said public mistrust of official channels of information creates an environment where fake news can thrive, as people will grasp information they think they can trust.
"That is not a problem of media. That is a problem of governments."
While some Caricom countries have freedom-of-information legislation, Rampersad argued it may not go far enough. She added that while TT has such legislation, there are limits as to what kind of information the media can access.
Rampersad also cited media illiteracy as a common problem in the region, including "a disturbing level of ignorance" among people in authority about the exact role of the media.
St Kitts and Nevis Information Service director-general Lesroy Williams said, "The government must not see the press as the enemy."
Referring to his experiences in independent and government media, Williams said the media must hold the government to account and be the watchdog of society.
Williams said social media has posed a major challenge to traditional media as "people are hiding behind social media to spread disinformation."
He added many people use fake identities to do this.
"It is so convoluted, what is placed out there on social media."
Williams also said some people are often pushing political agendas for certain parties or people.
Political analyst Devaron Bruce said many younger people opt to get their news from social media as opposed to traditional media. He claimed both social and traditional media can create "ecosystems and echo chambers of disinformation" if their respective content is not properly fact-checked.
Bruce said there are some people who are "media influencers" who may or may not be attached to traditional media houses and who influence public opinion through their social media postings. He said they must not be stifled but educated on what is accurate information and what is not.