African scribes urged to combat disinformation on the continent
Disinformation, according to Dr. Tendai Mhizha of Integra Africa, is having a negative impact on all continents, with Africa becoming a more frequent target of such campaigns.
Dr. Tendai Mhizha of Integra Africa said that disinformation, or the deliberate dissemination of false information with the intent of advancing a specific goal, is having a negative impact on all continents, with Africa becoming a more frequent target of such campaigns.
Dr. Mhizha, an author, public speaker and lecturer in strategy at Integra Africa, stated on 11 October 2022, during a webinar hosted by Integra Africa in collaboration with Philip Morris International that in recent years, dozens of carefully planned campaigns have pumped millions of intentionally false and misleading posts into Africa's online social spaces.
“The ensuing confusion in deciphering fact from fiction has had a corrosive effect on social trust, critical thinking, and citizens’ ability to engage in politics fairly—the lifeblood of a functioning democracy,” said Dr. Mhizha.
According to Dr Mhizha, disinformation has spread across many topics, including personal defamation, sales information, and catfishing, as well as the Russian-Ukrainian war, Covid 19 and its vaccines, and tobacco.
She said: “There has been a lot of disinformation surrounding the topic of nicotine and the alleged negative effects of e-cigarettes have on the body. This has led to policies that disfavour harm reduction products and discussion that completely denies their benefits.”
Dr Mhizha urged the media to work tirelessly to combat the continent's scourge of misinformation and disinformation by always double-checking their facts, calling on other stakeholders to join the fight as well.
She believes that media executives must be persuaded to invest in long-term efforts to combat misinformation and disinformation.
Dr Mhizha added that community leaders can use their platforms to correct or restore trust with people who have been misled.
“We have seen that efforts to thwart the spread of misinformation at the local level can be useful in communities where these organizations have credibility and are rooted in the fabric of the local ecosystem. It’s at this level where local journalists and CSOs can become the conveyors of truth and drivers of the correction of the misinformation,” she said.
During the same online event, Tommaso Di Giovanni, Vice President, Market Activation & Support - Philip Morris International, agreed with Mhizha that journalists can play an essential role in updating the world's knowledge and understanding of smoking issues in the wake of widespread disinformation.
He stated that Philip Morris International (PMI) is making significant progress toward a smoke-free future by disrupting its business in order to achieve a bold vision—to replace cigarettes with science-based smoke-free products.
Di Giovanni said PMI is actively working to broaden its purpose and evolve into a broader lifestyle, consumer wellness, and healthcare company, expanding its value proposition and innovative capability to commercialise products other than tobacco and nicotine.