Express Editorial : Daily

It takes an especially depraved mind to seek sadistic delight in terrorising the population with maliciously crafted lies about Covid-19 designed to trigger panic.

In the midst of a crisis, when so many people are grieving the loss of a loved one, or worrying about others who are ill, or experiencing Covid-19 anxiety, the impulse to sow confusion among the population can only be described as sick.

The current outbreak of the mischief-making virus is not surprising, given that it breaks out like a recurring rash whenever the country is gripped by uncertainty and anxiety. General elections and moments of high public insecurity over crime are notorious for breeding delusional sightings and conspiracy theories. Still, one would have expected a modicum at a time when not even the rumour-mongers should imagine themselves immune from distress, whether vaccinated or not.

Given that there is no vaccine against the virus of mischief-making, our best chance at not falling victim to it is to redouble our efforts against it by practising protocols of responsible sharing of information. We applaud yesterday’s prompt response by Police Commissioner Gary Griffith in debunking some of the daily hoaxes, including one disseminated via voice note by a man purporting to have attended a high level national security meeting. The first clue that it was fake was the fact that no participant leaving such a meeting would put out a message like that. We wonder if, in hindsight, the sender of that note thinks the cheap thrill he got from recording and releasing it was worth the few minutes of panic he stirred.

We in the media watch and listen to everything that comes our way and are obliged to check it out if warranted. Even so, we, too, sometimes get caught so we know that defences against misinformation can fail. Notwithstanding that, we work every day to earn our readers’ trust so that we can be a reliable source of information in this time of daily uncertainty and anxiety.

In addition to the many sources of official information, we note the emergence of a growing number of individuals who, on their own, are assuming individual responsibility for fact-checking reports making the rounds on social media and taking the time to alert the public.

Many of these individuals are experts on the subject at hand and may be even be involved. In the midst of confusion, such voices of reason can stop a rumour and a mischief-maker in their tracks.

In addition to responsible media, this time calls upon everyone to play their part in not aiding and abetting those whose objective is to send the population into convulsions of fear to some miserable end. We owe it to ourselves and one another not to fall for their tricks and tip the society over into chaos. The situation is already dicey enough.

Public officials also need to recognise that mischief flourishes where there is no trust. If they hope to be accepted as reliable sources of information, they would have to level with the population and be open to answering questions, honestly and frankly.

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