Dept of Basic Education says school closure rumours are fake news
"This type of malicious content is created with the express intent to cause confusion and mislead the public."
JOHANNESBURG - The Department of Basic Education urged citizens through a statement on Wednesday to find information from credible sources.
The department referred to a manipulated picture being circulated, saying there will be an announcement from Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga about schools closing on Wednesday and reopening only on 28 June 2021, allegedly because of the rising number of coronavirus infections in the country.
The department said this was fake news, saying members of the public should "be vigilant and verify sources of information they read before sharing it on social media".
"This type of malicious content is created with the express intent to cause confusion and mislead the public. We condemn such actions in the strongest possible terms," the statement read, adding that the department would use credible media platforms to make such announcements.
FAKE NEWS IS A CRIME
As per government regulations, anyone that creates or spreads fake news about the coronavirus is liable for prosecution.
Experts agreed that the spread of false information posed a threat to South Africa.
In 2020, Cape Town resident Stephen Birch was charged with breaching the National Disaster Act and defying lockdown regulations.
He had posted a video claiming that medical swabs used during community screenings were contaminated with the coronavirus.
That case is still before the courts and is just one of hundreds of people peddling lies about COVID-19 - especially now with the rollout of vaccines.
More than one year into the pandemic and pockets of fake news and disinformation continue to hamper efforts to effectively deal with COVID-19. Organisations such as Media Monitoring Africa and the Real411 have been used to mitigate the spread of disinformation.
MMA director William Bird told Eyewitness News in January that the spread of fake news about COVID-19 was another pandemic in its own right.
“That is what the World Health Organization said, they called it an infodemic, and you know it’s this idea that you can spread all these rumors which really hamper efforts by government and scientists and doctors to try and mitigate the crisis we’re in.”
The public can use Real411 to report fake news.