Retired judge calls for COVID-19 data system to stop spread of fake news

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Retired Constitutional Court Judge Zak Yacoob has appealed to government to urgently create a National, Regional and Local COVID-19 information system to disseminate information in order to avoid the spread of fake news.

Judge Yacoob was speaking in a virtual seminar hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal on the impact of fake news during the national lockdown.

Government has warned that those who spread fake news about the coronavirus will be liable for prosecution.

In the video below, President Cyril Ramaphosa cautions against spreading fake news:

Judge Yacoob says the spread of fake news during the COVID-19 lockdown period could place the lives of many South Africans in danger.

He also says government should also come up with better strategies to ensure that the correct information reaches people.

“What is clear is that quite often there has been inconsistency in government information issued nationally. We need to appeal to government urgently to create national, regional and local information system. I agree completely that part of the reason why we get fake news is because there is not enough detailed in relation to the real news.”

He says there should be a fixed daily time for government announcements on COVID-19 related matters, adding that government should never create room for the media and the public to speculate as this could lead to fake news.

“There should be a fixed time every day when information is released and an announcement is made. Part of that trouble is our national people have no respect for people. They let you know the time in the last possible minute as if they are the bosses of everything. When they say 8 o clock, the president starts talk to you at 8:30 because he suddenly gets busy about something as if what he has do is less important than we are. We must have the discipline of expected fixed time, daily information.”

He says the media, alongside other organisations and universities, should also play their part in helping people recognise fake news.

“Other organizations too should develop processes by which as I say earlier as soon as information is given to local provincial and national, there must be teams of people involved in our universities in various places who sit down and do work and produce the material and render it accessible in many ways.

Judge Yacoob adds that people must guard against being misled or breaking the lockdown regulations.

He has also urged people to use this lockdown period as an opportunity to better themselves.

The infographic below outlines factors that could lead to a possible extension or easing of the lockdown:

South Africa will determine whether or not to extend the lockdown following this week’s data outcome on the number of COVID-19 cases in the country..