Hyderabad: Frankie Sturm, Public Diplomacy Officer at the United States Consulate General Hyderabad, described how disinformation posed a threat to democracy and how journalists can combat disinformation for the benefit of their readers and viewers.
On Monday, he delivered remarks at a Conference on Countering Disinformation for Urdu TV journalists at Osmania University. The Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, Osmania University, in association with the US Consulate General Hyderabad, organised the workshop. About 35 Urdu journalists are being trained on how to debunk disinformation. Around 40 Telugu TV journalists were successfully trained and certified in the first phase.
“Accurate information is a pillar of democracy and journalists play a critical role in providing accurate information to the public,” Sturm said. “I’m grateful to Osmania University for organizing this excellent program for Urdu journalists and I’m confident the ultimate result is a stronger and more accurate information environment.”
Prof. D. Ravinder, Vice Chancellor, Osmania University, recalled that the University was the first to introduce Urdu as a medium of instruction and the long association of the university with the American Consulate. He thanked the US Consulate General for supporting the factcheck workshop. He also said the University was planning a cybersecurity course from the coming academic year.
In her address, Sneha Mehra, DCP (Cyber Crime), Hyderabad, citing research said that India stands among the one of the top three countries in social media disinformation and said that there was a surge during Covid 19, elections , farmers protests and politics . She lamented that there is a lack of accountability among social media platforms. “Media literacy and transparency from the government can help the situation but we really need accountability of social media users and more independent factchecks,” said Ms Mehra.
Countering disinformation is possible through critical thinking, content moderation and digital literacy, fact checking programmes. She pointed out that is anonymity on social media and lack of sufficient resources to counter misinformation were harming people’s understanding.
Prof. Stevenson Kohir, Head, Department of Journalism, Osmania University, welcomed the gathering and thanked the US Consulate General for its support to the training project. Spelling out the objectives of the project he said , it envisaged to empower Urdu journalists with fact checking skills, tools and techniques to prevent misinformation from creeping into the mainstream media while they report news. He said the project in blended mode was for 40-hours and had 35 TV journalists from mainstream Urdu channels and digital platforms.
Around 20 per cent of the trainees are women journalists, and five are students from the Maluana Azad National Urdu University.
National and international experts in fact-checking are roped in to train the participants.
U Sudhakar Reddy, Lead trainer from GNI and Data Leads, in his closing remarks, hoped that the programme would help in the emergence of a strong fact check group in Urdu.