"How Can Journalists Join the Efforts to Stop the 'Disinfodemic'?"


Amman, 3 May 2020 - On World Press Freedom Day, UNESCO is fighting back against disinformation and misinformation, in cooperation with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. 

Ever since the outbreak of COVID-19, journalists have been working around the clock to provide readers with comprehensive and up-to-date reporting on the global pandemic. Much of this coverage has focused on the reality of the crisis — what is happening, what can be expected, and new guidelines issued by governments. No crisis can be resolved without accurate and reliable information. At all levels, from governments to individuals, the decisions we make can be a matter of life and death and must be based on facts and science.

At the core of UNESCO's mandate lies freedom of the press and freedom of expression, which is celebrated annually on May 3rd. UNESCO believes that these freedoms allow for mutual understanding to build sustainable peace. It is a date to encourage and develop initiatives in favour of press freedom, and to assess the state of press freedom worldwide.

In the spirit of the World Press Freedom Day, UNESCO and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) are officially launching the Arabic version of the “Journalism, 'Fake News' and Disinformation: A Handbook for Journalism Education and Training” publication, providing a powerful tool to media in the battle to confront disinformation.

The publication draws on insights and advice from global experts and seeks to equip journalists to tackle the scourge of ‘information disorder’. Seven chapters explore the very nature of journalism, with modules focused on why trust matters; thinking critically about how digital technology and social platforms are conduits of information disorder; fighting back against disinformation and misinformation through media and information literacy; fact-checking 101; social media verification and combatting online abuse.

“Unchecked and even untrue facts and news are often inadvertently spread by citizens; the mutation of that news into misinformation has been as contagious as coronavirus,” said Costanza Farina, UNESCO Representative to Jordan. “The Arabic version of this publication comes at a critical moment for all those who practice or teach journalism in the Arab region”, Ms. Farina added.

Given its structure, this handbook is particularly useful for journalism educators, media professionals and editors and all those interested in how information is shared and used. Emphasizing that calling out disinformation is critical mission, the handbook is both a guide and a call to action.

“In light of the recent developments in the world on the issue of COVID-19 - we had to learn that knowledge is paramount. For an educational institute like FNF, this is the essence of our work. In times when knowledge can decide the fate of life, in times when personal freedoms are infringed for the ‘greater good’” said Dirk Kunze, Regional Director of FNF MENA.  He added, “We need a strong and intellectually well equipped "forth power" to keep an open eye. This project, among others in the MENA region and in Germany, is part of FNF’s plan to provide practical solutions to counter disinformation during the current global crisis and beyond”.

The Arabic version of the handbook has been produced in partnership with Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in MENA (FNF MENA). UNESCO Amman Office is collaborating with Al Rai Media Training Centre and FNF MENA, to host an online training and a series of webinars to mark the launch of the Arabic version of the handbook. 

The first webinar will coincide with World Press Freedom Day, during which experts will examine national trends in COVID-19 disinformation, for a target audience of primarily journalists. It took place over the Zoom platform on May 3rd at 2:00 p.m. Amman Time (GMT +3) and you may watch it here:

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  • Download the Press Release in Arabic here

  • Journalism Fake News and Disinformation Handbook (Arabic)