Fake news came under the spotlight at the 69th World News Media Congress at Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre. KwaZulu-Natal acting premier Sihle Zikalala, speaking at the congress today (Friday, 9 June) issued a strong warning against the proliferation of fake, describing it as a “serious threat which could undermine the stability of countries”.
Zikalala was addressing hundreds of delegates at the conference. He is also KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs. Zikalala said KwaZulu-Natal had already become a victim of the catastrophic consequences of fake news.
“Here in KwaZulu-Natal, we last week had to seek the intervention of our law enforcement authorities to quell a violent unrest that occurred in KwaMashu to the north of Durban owing to inauthentic reports that were propagated by sites that distort information and obfuscate genuine community concerns. As government we view these fake news sites as a potential threat that could undermine even the stability of the country,” he said.
He said the battle against fake news would not be won if journalists and media houses did not partner with government in fighting it. “The media is strategically located to educate our people about this problem and as governments we will also play our part by urging social media users to be cautious when sharing news via social media platforms from sources which are not credible.”
Zikalala told delegates that South Africa has excelled in ensuring freedom of the press, adding that the country had been placed in the top 40 out of 180 countries that guaranteed a free and diversified press, ahead of countries such as France, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The three-day World Media Congress was officially opened by President Jacob Zuma and it will see delegates deliberating on issues of media ownership and press freedom.