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UNESCO warns against ‘disinfodemic’ amid COVID-19 pandemic

Unreliable and false information is spreading around the world to such an extent, that some commentators are now referring to the new avalanche of misinformation that’s accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic as a ‘disinfodemic’.

And fears are growing that this phenomenon is putting lives at risk, prompting some with symptoms to try unproven remedies in the hope of ‘curing’ themselves. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is leading efforts to counter falsehoods and promote the facts about the virus.

Well, before the outbreak of the virus, UNESCO was issuing warnings of the impact that political, technological, economic and social transformation has had on how people exchange information in recent years, referring to the ‘’contamination’’ caused by some orchestrated misinformation campaigns, which pose a threat to fact-based journalism and, particularly during the current pandemic, people’s lives.

The Director for Policies and Strategies regarding Communication and Information at UNESCO Guy Berger said falsehoods related to all aspects of COVID-19 have become commonplace.

“There seems to be barely an area left untouched by disinformation in relation  to the COVID-19 crisis, ranging from the origin of the Corona virus, through to unproven prevention and cures, and encompassing responses by governments, companies, celebrities and others.’’

He added that, “in a time of high fears, uncertainties and unknowns, there is fertile ground for fabrications to flourish and grow. The big risk is that any single falsehood that gains traction can negate the significance of a body of true facts. When disinformation is repeated and amplified, including by influential people, the grave danger is that information which is based on truth, ends up having only marginal impact.’’

Because of the scale of the problem, the World Health Organization (WHO), which is leading the UN’s response to the pandemic, has added a ‘’myth busters’’ section to its online Coronavirus advice pages.

It refutes a staggering array of myths, including claims that drinking potent alcoholic drinks, exposure to high temperatures, or conversely, cold weather, can kill the virus.

Berger noted that some people believe, wrongly, that young people or those of African descent are immune, and that those in warm climates or countries where summer is on its way, do not need to worry too much. The likely consequence, he says, is complacency, which could fuel more premature deaths.

The UNESCO official also pointed to a more harmful example of disinformation: encouraging the taking of medication, approved for other purposes, but not yet clinically proven as being effective against COVID-19.

Furthermore, Berger said some have capitalized on the pandemic, to spread disinformation for the purposes of advancing their own agendas: “The motives for spreading disinformation are many, and include political aims, self-promotion, and attracting attention as part of a business model. Those who do so, play on emotion, fears, prejudices and ignorance, and claim to bring meaning and certainty to a reality that is complex, challenging and fast-changing.

But, he added, not everyone responsible for spreading untruths is doing so maliciously. He said there are well-intentioned people are also uncritically circulating dubious content. Whatever the reasons, he warns, the outcome is the same: ‘’These different motives require different responses, but we should not lose sight of the fact that, irrespective of intention, the effect of sharing falsehoods is to misinform and disempower the public, with deadly potential.’’

Against this, what can be done to ensure that truthful, helpful and potentially life-saving information gains wider prominence? UNESCO’s Berger says, is to improve the supply of truthful information, and ensure that the demand is met: “We are underlining that governments, in order to counter rumours, should be more transparent, and proactively disclose more data, in line with Right to Information laws and policies. Access to information from official sources is very important for credibility in this crisis.’’

Berger said UNESCO is intensifying efforts to persuade authorities to see free and professional information gatekeepers like media houses who he said should be an ally in the fight against disinformation. He chose news media because it works openly in the public sphere, whereas much disinformation is under-the-radar on social messaging apps.’’

UNESCO, continued Berger, is particularly urging governments, not to impose restrictions on freedom of expression that can harm the essential role of an independent press, but to recognise journalism as a power against disinformation even when it publicises verified information and informed opinion that annoys those in power. He said there is a string case to be made that the media deserves to be recognised and supported by governments as an essential service at this time.

To satisfy the demand for authorised facts, UNESCO says its circulating as much reliable public health information as possible, via the media, channels, in partnership with agencies like WHO.

The group is also working to help people become more critical of what is being presented to them online and elsewhere, as fact, so that they are less likely to believe, and spread, falsehoods. The agency is using hashtags and promoting the view that the rights to freedom of expression and access to information are the best remedies to the dangers of disinformation.

These rights, says Berger, “enable governments and the public to take evidence-based decisions about reality, and to put in place responses that are founded on both science and human rights values, and which can get us through the pandemic in the best ways.’’

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WeekendLife

All roads lead to Francistown for ATI’s concert

18th May 2022
ATI

Organisers of the much anticipated As One Music Concert say preparation for the much awaited as one of the music concert are at the peak, with ticket and merchandise sales at a high just 13 days before the event.

In a statement Kesego Okie, Managing Director of Blue Skies PR Agency and event coordinator “The Concert is a celebration of ATI’s journey in music. It is also an incredible platform for all stakeholders, particularly businesses that operate in Francistown, to show their commitment to the resuscitation of the City’s economy following the impact of Covid.

We are grateful for the reception by the city leadership and look forward to cooperate Francistown heeding our call to support the arts, which would in turn, be supporting many livelihoods and small business in the area”.

She expressed gratitude to the public for their immense support evidenced by ticket sales and talk ability, saying this is testimony that indeed As One the nation can go fa in the true spirit of boipelego (self-reliance).

The concert is partnership between Batho Bame Investment and Blue Skies PR Agency. “A lot of work has gone in to prepare for the highlight, and I am thankful to everyone who believes in the dream and supports us. I promise nothing but the very best of me and would love to express my utmost gratitude to all creatives and businesses that are a part of this Journey” Atasaone ATI Molemogi.

The concert will be the first music show taking place within the main pitch of the Obed Itani Chilume Stadium, which was chosen to host because of its distinct state of art ambiance, coupling Francistown’s position as a gate way to many strategic places in Botswana.

Francistown is not only rich in history, but also an enabler for economic activity for unearthed tourist destination surrounding it. It is an honour to have been given the approval by the city leadership and the people of Francistown to host this Concert in their backyard’ ATI.

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WeekendLife

AMVCAs To Host Hollywood Stars At 8th Edition

18th May 2022

As part of activities for the 8th edition of Africa’s most prestigious award ceremony, the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCAs), Africa Magic in association with MultiChoice Nigeria will host celebrity movie stars and film directors from Hollywood ahead of the awards ceremony taking place on Saturday, 14 May in Lagos.

The visiting Hollywood stars will be led by Tasha Smith, actress, director and producer, known for her role in the acclaimed films, ‘Why Did I Get Married?’ and its sequel, ‘Why Did I Get Married, Too?’. She will be joined by Bayo Akinfemi, a cast member of the popular television series, ‘Bob Hearts Abishola’ as well as Brandon Micheal Hall of the ‘God Friended Me’ series fame

Also expected are Sidra Smith, award-winning Producer and Head of Essence’s Film and TV Studio and Grant Housley, Hollywood Producer, Writer and Director currently at Paramount Pictures, where he has worked on some of the biggest films and most critically acclaimed television series in the world.

While in Nigeria, the stars will meet with the #AMVCA8 nominees and other industry stakeholders. This historic visit is in line with MultiChoice and Africa Magic’s efforts in sustaining the Africa film making and storytelling momentum, through deliberate global collaboration.

The eighth edition of the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards is brought to viewers by Africa Magic in association with MultiChoice and is proudly sponsored by Amstel Malta.
For more information, visit www.africamagic.tv/AMVCA and follow all official handles of Africa Magic on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #AMVCA8

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WeekendLife

Of Musicians and No Shows

10th May 2022
Musicians and No Shows

There is a growing unpleasant of artists who do not pitch for events they have been booked for; or simultaneously, there could be another development – false advertising – where artists’ names are used to draw large crowds.

Musicians and promoters in their mission to put bread on the table seem to have resorted to obscene means of securing their means. To many, this is tantamount to fraud and deception to gain an unfair advantage over their unsuspecting fans who swoon at the mention of their name, their presence and entire existence.

The month of May has just begun and bottomless grievances are pouring in of no show musicians at gigs they have been booked and paid for. Instead of leaving the crowd stunned by a spectacular show they are leaving revellers disappointed.

Exhibit A; This past weekend Eswatini’s DJ Uncle Waffles was scheduled to perform in Botswana. She never pitched up for the shows and continues to be silent on her lack of presence at the show. Exhibit B; Maphorisa, Kabza De Small and Sha Sha were all set to perform on 29 April at the Victoria Falls Carnival 10th Anniversary but did not arrive in Zambia for the gig.

In a statement released on Sunday 1 May, Victoria Falls Carnival organisers confirmed that flights and accommodation were organised for DJ Maphorisa, Kabza De Small and Sha Sha.
The statement continued; “Confirmations were sent to them as agreed and emails were sent to them several times before, for some reason they did not show up at the airport on the day of travel…

Above and beyond we tried to communicate with the artists to change the date of performance but still we could not get hold of them despite all the effort and all means of communication from our side,” Organisers have demanded that the artists refund them the full booking fee and the payments made for flights and accommodation

“All three artists were paid in full and contractually bound to perform at the Carnival, and accommodated at every corner with their numerous flight and accommodation change requests.” Adds the statement. Exhibit C; South African artist Prince Benza’s passport was confiscated by the Deputy Sheriffs pending payment for damages on breach of contract.

He was scheduled to perform at Mogobane on the 31st of December at the Reflector Music Festival but did not appear as well. He nabbed when he came into the country for a separate event.
The President of Botswana Entertainment Promoters Association (BEPA), Gilbert Seagile this week had his company; Gilbert Promotions registered in South Africa.

This puts him in an ideal spot to become an intermediary and help solve the feud between Botswana and South African artists and their no show at events.  Seagile emphasized that it’s not only international artists that miss events but even the local artists have the same tendencies. He elaborated that reasons for artists not pitching up are many amongst them ; breach of contracts , promoters not paying deposits and some can be natural like artist testing positive for Covid-19.

The BEPA president also indicated that fly-by-night promoters are also a concern as they do not follow the BEPA Code of conduct, “BEPA members are well coordinated, they have the code of conduct which guides them to do things accordingly. The government is pushing for promoters to join BEPA they have already started refusing with permits when one is not a member of BEPA.” he emphasized

Seagile said that the association is in talks with the South African Music Promoters Association (SAMPA) to provide protection of Botswana Promoters that when artists miss shows they can be able to rope in their lawyers in South Africa through SAMPA and Botswana through BEPA to compensate for losses incurred as a result of this exploitation.

He said another way of dealing with this matter is for Promoters to issue a contract to the artist as currently the norm is that the artist produces the contract to the promoter so this solution can help the promoters to protect themselves.

In an interview with Weekendlife, Superintendent Tumediso of Urban Police Station enunciated that matters of no show artists are normally reported by the promoter who normally comes as the complainant. The matter is then taken forward taking into consideration the evidence, this will in turn assist in determining on whether the case is theft, obtaining by false pretence or fraud.
When it is all said and done, revellers love musicians to hate them and hate them to love them. It is an unending toxic relationship which no one wants to pull away from.

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