ISLAMABAD: Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) unveiled its latest initiative, Fehem, on Tuesday to address the Media and Information Literacy needs in Pakistan.
MMfD Executive Director Asad Baig said Fehem is designed to equip journalists and citizens with the knowledge and skills to counter online disinformation.
Mr. Baig said the Fehem programme will include projects on disinformation research, fact-checking training for journalists and media organisations, and public awareness campaigns about the online spread of disinformation.
“Pakistani Internet users are exposed to a wide variety of false messages on the Internet,” he said. “It is imperative that information producers and information seekers in the country are made aware of ways to protect against the harmful impact of digital disinformation.”
The launch ceremony featured panel discussions on the role of media, civil society, and technology companies in responding to online disinformation. Journalists spoke about the importance of fact-checking and verification at local media outlets to build trust with their news audiences. Civil society representatives stressed the need to examine the nature, extent, and impact of online disinformation in Pakistan to inform policy responses.
Panel speakers said the spread of disinformation on social media has created new challenges for democracy and society in Pakistan. They said the public health risks caused by disinformation about Covid-19 during the pandemic indicates that this issue cannot be ignored any longer. The speakers praised efforts by MMfD to raise public awareness about information ethics so that citizens could improve their ability to resist online rumours and falsehoods.
MMfD Programme Manager Amel Ghani shared findings from a baseline research conducted under the Fehem initiative to determine public perceptions about disinformation and the role of news media in providing accurate information.
The research findings show that 90 percent of 500 survey respondents felt false information is a challenge in Pakistan but fewer than one-third of the respondents were confident about their ability to recognise false information online. Ms. Ghani said the survey results indicate the need to improve the media and information literacy of citizens.
The Fehem programme will also make its training and information resources available on a dedicated web portal.