DA joins fight against COVID-19 Fake News

Please find attached soundbite by DA Shadow Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Phumzile Van Damme MP

The Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams is asleep at the wheel while dangerous and life-threatening fake news and disinformation about COVID-19 run rampant.

As such, the DA will be using its resources and reach to identify, correct and report fake news as well as educate the public about it.

We will be launching a campaign to educate the public about what disinformation and fake news is, how to identify it, report it and where to find the correct information about COVID-19.

We also appeal to South Africa’s media to ensure it does not publish and thus spread fake news. The media has an important role to play at this time as it is the source of information for many.  Extra steps to verify information before it is published is an absolute necessity while not only South Africa but the world is dealing with a global pandemic that has killed almost 70 000 people.

Although they have subsequently apologised, News24’s publication of story suggesting that the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation will test a COVID-19 vaccine in Africa is inexcusable and must never happen again.

We also appeal to political leaders not to engage in irresponsible behaivour spreading fake news, paranoia and bizarre tin-foil hat conspiracy theories about COVID-19. The President of the African Transformation Movement (ATM), Vuyo Zungula’s nonsensical “letter” to President Cyril Ramaphosa published this morning about various COVID-19 conspiracy theories is such an example. We trust that President Ramaphosa will be firm in his response to Zungula and admonish him for his irresponsible conduct.

The DA reminds the public that while the country is faced with a momentous battle against COVID-19, disinformation and fake news carries a jail sentence or a fine. According to the Disaster Management Act:

5)Any person who publishes any statement, through any medium, including social media, with the intention to deceive any other person about—

(a) COVID-19;

(b) COVID-19 infection status of any person; or

(c) any measure taken by the Government to address COVID-19, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months, or both such fine and imprisonment.

The DA looks forward to making positive contributions to the fight against COVID-19 to ensure that the public has the correct information in order to protect themselves, their families and communities against the virus.