14 September 2021
Media Coverage and Disinformation in the run up to the elections
JOHANNESBURG, 14 September 2021– Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) launched their 2021 Local Government Elections Media Monitoring and Disinformation project. With the local government elections now set to go ahead between the 27th of October and the 1st of November 2021, we can expect the political environment to heat up even more. To help the public navigate these times we have developed campaigns and platforms that will seek to inform and educate citizens about mis and disinformation and equip them with the necessary tools to act on such false narratives. The Real411 platform will address the spread of disinformation during the 2021 Local Government Election period.
Media Monitoring Africa approach the elections with the following three key assumptions: firstly, anyone who can, should vote. It doesn’t matter who you vote for, but it does matter that you vote. Even if you spoil your ballot because you feel that despite the parties there isn’t a choice, it is important that you go and make your mark. Our second assumption is that you can and should be able to rely on credible news media to help unpack, explain, and share the key issues and stories in the run up to the elections.
For our media, we ask them to approach the elections coverage by asking what it is that the public knows, what don’t they know and what do they need to know? Our news media plays an absolutely critical role, not just in helping us know what the parties are up to but in the age of mis and disinformation they also offer news and information you can rely on to make informed decisions. To hold the media accountable to these high level principles, MMA has monitored every single democratic election in South Africa. The results from our monitoring are used to spotlight both the successes of media houses, but also the blind spots that journalists might miss in their everyday reporting. Credible media are an essential part of elections being free and fair.
Thirdly, we know mis and disinformation will increase in this period. Living through the COVID19 pandemic we have all been exposed to mis and disinformation about COVID-19. We know that as tensions increase so do the levels of mis and disinformation. There is a lot at stake and many stand to gain or lose, and as we have seen in elections around the world some will use mis and disinformation to push their agenda. As we have written previously, disinformation destroys democracy and poses a clear threat to free and fair elections. To help distinguish between official and fake adverts, political parties contesting for elections have been asked to upload all official advertising material used by the party to an online political advert repository (Padre). This will allow anyone to check whether a poster or a digital banner is legitimate or has been digitally altered.
Notes to editors:
2 minute explainer video
Previous Elections Media Coverage reports: https://mediamonitoringafrica.org/elections/
For further information, please contact:
Nomshado Lubisi, Media Monitoring Africa, Tel: +27 11 788 1278, firstname.lastname@example.org
Real411 (www.real411.org.za) is a platform developed by Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) that allows any member of the public to report potential digital disinformation in the elections period to the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC).
Disinformation is an emerging threat to free and fair elections, and this pilot world first initiative is a process to govern and engage on the issue of disinformation during the Election Period.
About Political Advert Repository (Padre)
PAdRe (www.padre.org.za) will allow designated representatives of official political parties to upload their official adverts to the website. This will allow for a publicly searchable database of political ads. PAdRe aims to increase transparency and access to information in South African elections. This platform will enable the public to verify campaign media assets to ensure no further spread of any disinformation and misinformation campaigns.