From news reports, “family meetings”, WhatsApp groups to apps, there are various ways in which information about Covid-19 can be accessed. We also need this information in a quick and accurate way in order to help curb the spread of the respiratory infection and reduce the infection rate. In South Africa, the right to access information is a constitutional right as found in section 32(1) of the Constitution, which reads:
“Everyone has the right of access to any information held by the state; and any information that is held by another person and that is required for the exercise or protection of any rights”.
We spoke to a few young South Africans to find out how they access information on the Covid-19 health pandemic.
“I also followed all government platforms namely, the Department of Health and Department of Education on social media”
Alessio Marcus from Cape Town is aware of fake news making the rounds on social media platforms and always verifies information before consuming it. “I as a young person love to watch the news so I receive lots of information [that way]. I also followed all government platforms namely, the Department of Health and Department of Education on social media and I also receive information via WhatsApp. I always verify the info because a lot of misinformation was spread on WhatsApp in particular.”
Alessio believes that there is sufficient information about the pandemic and that the government and news agencies clearly outline the measures citizens need to take in order to stay safe.
When asked if he would change anything if it was his job to draw up a government communication strategy in response to the pandemic, Alessio responded, “I would not necessarily change anything. I do believe that the government has put amazing measures in place in order to communicate with the citizens.”
“If it was my job to draw up a government communication strategy, I would ensure pop-up ads on Youtube videos or any other social media platforms to remind people to continue following Covid-19 protocols.”
Naylene Titus from Polokwane in Limpopo accesses a number of platforms to acquire information on the pandemic. “I have news apps on my smartphone, which include CNN, Netwerk24 and I watch news on the TV to access information on the virus. I mostly rely on the news apps to keep me informed about the pandemic. WhatsApp and other social media platforms are not always reliable because although information is being spread around, one doesn’t always know if it’s accurate.”
Naylene believes that she is definitely receiving accurate information from news apps. She however is more wary of consuming information from social media platforms as these risk being a conducive environment for the spread of fake news.
“I don’t really trust the way media houses like eNCA and sometimes SABC narrate reality.”
Gabriella Oliver from Cape Town has also been accessing information through print media. “I access information reading the newspapers; my grandpa still buys a newspaper everyday. I also watch news channels on the television but not that much. I don’t really trust the way media houses like eNCA and sometimes SABC narrate reality. I feel they provide a very distorted version of reality.”
Gabriella does not always believe that she is receiving accurate information. “Often I hold high speculation that leading media outlets and journalists have resorted to spreading conspiracies and a broad spectrum of opinions and calling it the ‘news’ to manage the public emotions and levels of social outrage on complex issues affecting South Africa.”
“I really despise misinformation about covid-19, I think it’s extremely dangerous…”
Cullen Koopman from Cape Town believes that the instances of misinformation particularly around covid-19 and vaccines doesn’t allow us to make progress in efficiently bringing down the number of infections.
“I really despise misinformation about covid-19. I think it’s extremely dangerous for people to spread new ‘facts’ about covid-19 that are not true because these rumours spread so fast and set all of us back and set people in a panic which helps nobody. I really think that if you hear something you should do your own research into it and determine from there onwards. I have seen too many of these WhatsApp broadcasts about covid-19 that people believe but have no truth to them. I’ve heard too many people discourage others from the covid-19 vaccine because of some article they saw on Facebook about microchips in the vaccine and such.”
Like many others, he makes use of multiple sources to access information on covid-19, including news apps and social media accounts of reputable sources. “I also Google questions I have and read articles,” he adds.
When asked whether or not he’d change anything about the government’s communication strategy, he said that he wouldn’t particularly change things but just ensure that communication keeps coming. “I feel like we go through dark periods of time with no word from the government. What I did really appreciate was when our president debunked rumours during one of his most recent addresses about the vaccines.”
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