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Misinformation in J&K: Govt, mainstream media, public have a role to play

Ziraat Times Editorial Board

The 2024 Global Risk Report has identified misinformation and disinformation as the most serious risk societies would face in the next two years. It has put misinformation and disinformation risk at number 5 among the 10 most severe risks to societies in the coming ten years. This ranking and the risks misinformation and disinformation pose to societies are plausible.

Jammu & Kashmir faces a unique predicament in today’s information technology and social media era. One of the biggest challenges societies face today emanates from fake news and unregulated and unregistered voices on social media that create a fertile ground for the spread of misinformation and disinformation, posing potent risks to social stability and cohesion.

Combating misinformation in J&K requires a multi-pronged approach, involving government, civil society, media, and the public. Unverifiable information and inflammatory narratives often make it to big-impact social media platforms that can exacerbate distrust and animosity between communities, potentially leading to social unrest and even violence. Widespread fake news is now well known to harm social cohesion by distorting perceptions, promoting stereotypes, and creating echo chambers where communities live in separate information realities.

A volatile social environment fueled by misinformation can deter investments and tourism, jeopardizing economic growth and development. In recent months we have even seen fake news related to health, which can hinder public health initiatives, leading to vaccine hesitancy and even potential outbreaks of preventable diseases. The way these ill-informed narratives shape public opinion is quite serious and is likely to manifest challenging situations in the days to come if unaddressed. The recent case of a doubtful financial company being able to dupe citizens with crores of rupees in J&K is another case in point.

Moving forward, it is important to empower J&K’s citizens to critically evaluate information, identify fake news, and verify sources through workshops, educational campaigns, and fact-checking initiatives. And this has to happen at government, civil society, media, and the public levels. It is also critical to encouragee responsible and ethical journalism by facilitating such media platforms that are not driven by sensationalism but, rather, by a responsible vision of human well being and development. Registered mainstream media have multiple levels of accountability, self regulation and due diligence. Informed editorial discretion ensures publication of only that content which is duly verified and abide by the laws on libel and slander. Implementing mechanisms to hold social media platforms accountable for curbing the spread of harmful content, while upholding freedom of expression is an imperative. Building trust by providing accurate and accessible information, promoting a culture of critical thinking, and creating an inclusive social environment where diverse voices are heard and respected are key to ensuring social stability and cohesion in the region.

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