Justice minister Yvonne Dausab has urged radio stations to aid in disseminating the right Covid-related information to curb the spread of misinformation about the pandemic that has fuelled vaccine hesitancy.
During last week’s briefing to announce updated restrictions, she said information is key, and radio stations should play public service announcements during intervals to make it easy for listeners to absorb it. “People who make announcements about funerals and weddings on radio stations should emphasise the protocols that must be adhered to around Covid-19, as this will help us in providing wide information around the virus,” she stated.
Dausab said this would ensure that the public doesn’t get infected with the virus. Covid-19 has led to a parallel pandemic of disinformation that directly impacts lives and livelihoods around the world. Falsehoods and misinformation have proven deadly and sowed confusion about life-saving personal and policy choices.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation said the impact of Covid-19 disinformation, which they termed a disinfodemic, is more deadly than disinformation about other subjects, such as politics and democracy.
Contacted for comment, Radiowave FM station manager Juan Vorster said Future Media (Omulunga FM, Nova FM, Radiowave and Fresh FM) had a consultation with the World Health Organisation to create awareness on the Covid-19 pandemic. “We are doing it stationwide, getting experts to discuss Covid-19 related issues, using locals and social media to have a standard awareness campaign,” he informed.
Vorster said Future Media has been busy with this campaign for about four weeks, and with the current state of affairs, they decided to extend for another four weeks.
“There is so much misinformation going on. We have spoken to First Lady Monica Geingos, who was eager to get involved with our campaign as her office is also creating massive awareness on the pandemic.
This was a good move at the right time, and it’s getting attention. We are tasked with getting the real information about the virus from credible sources and spread it to the public,” he added. Eagle FM’s Wonder Guchu said the current affairs’ radio station was already involved in educating listeners on Covid-19 vaccines.
“The government has no plans or strategies of disseminating Covid-19 information; no newspaper has a plan here every day, throughout; but we do. We do it for our listeners, and we were the first ones to talk about Covid-19,” he noted. “If you listen to my programme every morning, the last 10 minutes are dedicated to talking about the vaccines, issues of effects and side-effects, disadvantages and advantages. Topics vary from the effects of vaccines and alcohol to the effects of the vaccines while on a diet, if you are isolated and so forth,” Guchu continued.
NBC’s chief of news and programming Menesia Muinjo told this publication that the corporation broadcasts and livestreams all the daily Covid-19 updates on all its multi-media platforms – on all 11 radio stations, TV and digital platforms. She said “to ensure that Covid-19-related messages have been fully understood by the diverse audiences, especially on radio, which reaches all corners of Namibia, they are immediately translated by producers for Kati FM (Oshiwambo), Kaisames (Damara/Nama), Nwanyi (Silozi), Wato (Rukavango), Hartklop (Afrikaans), Funk Haus (German), !Ah (for San Community Dialects), Omurari (Otjihero), Tirelo Ya Sechaba (Setswana) and National FM to do the updates in English.
The dedicated youth radio station Touch FM also broadcasts Covid-related content by the youth for the youth – and this is correlated on various social media pages. These briefings and daily updates also have sign language interpreters assigned to attend to the diverse needs of the audience.”
Muinjo furthermore stated that the NBC remains responsive to those needs that will intensify the Covid-19 messages to reach the entire population, and the respective production managers have already been sensitised to find the best ways to strengthen the dissemination of the pandemic’s content.