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The Pandemic and the Infodemic: Disinformation in the Modern Age

The COVID-19 outbreak is a global public health crisis, but unfortunately its impact goes much beyond the health dimension. From the very beginning, UN Secretary General, M. Antonio Guterres, has denounces the "massive infodemic" of disinformation and misinformation swirling amdst the COVID-19 pandemic as a driver of the crisis itself. The COVID-19 oubtreak has exposed fragilities in societies and economies across the globe. The dis-infodemic is deepening those fissures in societies and economy worldwide.

 

Against this backdrop, and since the outbreak of the pandemic, UN scaled up efforts to counter the growing surge of information disorder that is impeding access to trustworthy sources and reliable information.  

 

Since the beginning of the pandemic outbreak, UNESCO responded to the Covid-19 dis-infodemic with a series of initiatives aimed at working for truth and supporting reliable and professional information.

 

As part of this global effort and to counter the spread of misinformation in Qatar, UNESCO GCC and Yemen office partnered with the Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Doha Forum, and Aljazeera English, to organize a high-level virtual panel discussion on : “The Pandemic and the Infodemic: Disinformation in the Modern Age”.

 

The high-level webinar, held under the flagship of Doha Forum, a global platform for dialogue, bringing together leaders in policy to build innovative and action driven networks, sought to explore how the spread of disinformation is affecting societies amid the COVID-19 pandemic, how to sensitize the population about it and provide them with the necessary tools to analyze information and counter disinformation.

 

The virtual panel was live streamed on August 31, 2020 and also featured on the Inside Story of Al Jazeera.

 

Watch the full webinar below.

 

The event led to fruitful exchanges between the panelists and the moderator: Guy Berger, Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development at UNESCO, Dr. Hanan Abdulrahim, Associate professor and Dean of the College of Health Sciences at Qatar University, and Folly Bah Thibault, Principal Presenter at Aljazeera English.

 

During his intervention, Guy Berger, Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development at UNESCO, explained that disinformation can only exist if it attacks freedom of expression. Therefore, independent and professional media are important to identify disinformation and find their sources. Freedom of expression is part of the solution to disinformation.

 

Dr. Hanan Abdulrahim, Associate professor and Dean of the College of Health Sciences at Qatar University, pointed out that as long as there is a vacuum in information, it will give room to misinformation and disinformation. She underlined the importance to feel comfortable communicating on uncertainty and keep the populations involved on this discovery process to better fight against the disinfodemic spreading around the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Both panelists agreed on the importance, beyond the emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic, to educate the public about disinformation and to give them the tools and knowledge to assess claims and verify information.