Misinformation has plagued this pandemic from the beginning.
From supposed ‘treatments’ that don’t actually work to denying the existing of the virus at all, this misinformation has consistently stood in the way of an effective pandemic response.
It continues to cost lives as people delay seeking medical care for symptoms they believe are ‘just the flu’.
As we see a path out of the worst of the pandemic, the importance of accurate and trusted news media has never seemed more important.
Right now, people all over the world are united by a common choice: whether they will take the COVID-19 vaccine when it is offered to them.
They are making this decision based on the information available to them – what they read or hear in media, and the experiences of those around them.
The latter can be most influential of all.
It is critical, in making an informed decision for the health and wellbeing of our communities that people in Papua New Guinea rely on accurate information on this vaccine.
A challenge that we are aware of here at the UN is a growing mistrust in authoritative, verified sources of information on this pandemic.
We are also seeing misinformation spread online faster than verified sources can keep up with.
A responsible, independent news media is essential in providing accurate information on the vaccine.
This includes presenting an honest view of the risks and benefits of the vaccine against the risks posed by COVID-19.
Right now, an individual in Papua New Guinea is more likely to be hospitalized due to complications from COVID than due to side effects of the COVID vaccine.
Accurate information must also highlight that the vaccine is, and will likely always be, voluntary.
But good journalism does not exist in a bubble.
We need a media literate population who can assess the information being given to them and be critical of information coming from biased, unevidenced sources.
Strengthening media and information literacy among readers, listeners or viewers, bolsters independent journalism, and empowers audiences to make informed decisions.
Today, that decision is about the COVID vaccine.
Tomorrow, it may be about another healthcare concern. Or it may be about education, justice, or our environment.
Combating misinformation now is vital in making these decisions that will shape our future.