The government is planning to establish a “rumour detection and prevention centre” where media can verify news with the relevant spokesperson, to prevent rumours in times of crises.
“We need to establish it as soon as possible. We will discuss the matter with the prime minister and hold intra-ministerial meetings to initiate it,” Information Minister Hasanul Huq Inu said yesterday while speaking at a discussion on the role of mass media and social media to tackle rumours.
Press Information Department organised the programme at the capital's Cirdap auditorium.
Speakers at the discussion, where most of the participants were media professionals, said remours spread when flow of information is limited and there is no proper information management.
They also mentioned some past and recent incidents like the BDR mutiny and road safety movement, when the mass media had trouble getting verified information.
The journalists said the government should provide verified news in times of crises, before the rumours spread.
Prime Minister's Media Advisor Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury said, “The right information should be delivered at the right time, and the government should have faith in the media to tackle rumours.”
Farida Yasmin, general secretary of Jatiya Press Club, said people find alternative ways if they cannot express their opinions freely. “The government should be more media-friendly to stop spreading of rumours,” she added.
Inu, who was the chief guest at the programme, said, “It is right that we need to ensure flow of correct information. We the government, as well as the mainstream media, should take the responsibility to tackle rumours.”
Shahnaz Sharmeen, chief reporter of Nagorik TV, said such a situation arose because there was a lack of information. “If we had been allowed to broadcast from the Awami League office in Dhanmondi during the road safety protests, the rumours would not have spread,” she said.
She cited an example: “My daughter is a ninth-grader who took part in the student protest for road safety. When the rumours spread on Facebook about the incident in Jigatola, I could not convince her that it was not true, as there was no information on broadcast media.”
On the political gains of rumours, Inu said, “If we look at the rumours, we will see that it was coming from BNP-Jamaat. BNP-Jamaat is the factory of producing rumours and lies.”
Inu alleged that they are recently spreading lies about Khaleda Zia's sickness.
“Sickness of Khaleda Zia is a rumour and a lie. She is alright,” Inu alleged, adding that the same group is now also spreading rumours about the upcoming national election, creating confusion among people whether it would be held or not.
Inu said the social media should be kept clean from BNP-Jamaat's rumours.
Tarana Halim, state minister for information, alleged that Jamaat-Shibir is funding rumours from London to create anarchy in the country. “The game of spreading rumours on social media should be stopped before it spreads,” she added.
Inu said they would take actions against whoever spread rumours and lies.
“But whenever we take actions, a certain quarter cries out that there is no democracy and freedom of speech,” he said.
“Such stance does not safeguard the democracy, but favours them who spread rumours,” Inu added.
Inu concluded with the necessity of digital literacy. “To prevent rumours, we should educate people with digital literacy,” he added.
Prof Mofizur Rahman of the mass communication and journalism department at Dhaka University presented the keynote paper at the event, where he spoke about rumours, fake news and propaganda, and made suggestions to prevent them.
The programme was presided over by Kamrun Nahar, principal information officer to the government. Information Secretary Abdul Malek also spoke.