Study finds news coverage helped curb Covid misinformation

A new study conducted has suggested that media outlets should continue to provide practical information to the public as the efforts of journalists and media organisations has helped keep the general public informed and safe during the pandemic.

The research titled “Public Trust in the Media during the Coronavirus Pandemic” was published by Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) as part of the Civil society for Independent Media and Expression (CIME) initiative jointly undertaken with the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives and the Pakistan Press Foundation.

While the Covid-19 pandemic was inarguably accompanied by an overwhelming amount of false medical information, rumours, and conspiracy theories, journalists and media organisations fought against health risks to bring reliable information to the public.

The study attempted to understand the news consumption patterns and levels of public trust for Covid-19 information and asked people about the lockdown’s effects on their ability to access information. A notable 74 per cent of the respondents reported that the pandemic had not reduced their ability to access news and information.

People felt the Pakistani media coverage of Covid-19 provided them with the information they needed, supplied largely accurate information, and ensured the benefit of the public, according to the study, which relied on a national public opinion survey of 345 respondents. 

Around 57 per cent of the respondents considered the mainstream media as trustworthy sources of coronavirus news and information. People also frequently relied on their friends-and-family networks to get coronavirus updates and a majority (56 per cent) also trusted these sources of Covid information. 

On the other hand, 30 per cent of the respondents saw social media as untrustworthy when it came to information about the pandemic.

While half of the respondents said they had never used the Pakistan government’s Covid-19 web portal or smartphone app, a majority (52 per cent) still trusted official sources for information and updates on the virus.

The TV medium was the most used media type for Covid-19 news, according to the survey, and people were most interested in getting information about coronavirus safety precautions.

In its conclusion, the research recommended that the government use TV mediums for its Covid-19 public awareness campaigns and supply messages in local languages to reach the majority of the public.

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